BEIJING – A new Chinese cruise ship began its first voyage to the Paracel Islands in the controversial South China Sea.

According to Xinhua news agency, the Changle Gongzhu or Changle Princess sailed from Sanya carrying 308 passengers.

The new ship can carry 499 people with a range of 3,000 nautical miles. It has 82 guest rooms and offers dining, shopping, entertainment, medical treatment and postal services aboard.

The South China Sea handles a third of the world’s maritime traffic. Apart from China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have also claimed to these waters.

The administration of U.S Donald Trump has already described China’s island building in the South China Sea as illegal.

The disputed waters are a vital shipping route at the heart of a territorial dispute that pits multiple countries against one another.