The rapid development of its cruise market has made China the shining star all over the world. The average annual growth rate of over 30 % in the Chinese market is achieved by the charter-based sales system. However, in recent years, there has been a repeated occurrence of market crises, which gives rise to low-price competition. The charter sales model has thus been cast into serious doubt. In this study, through the combined methods of literature review and interviews, we carried out an in-depth investigation with a view to revealing the formation mechanism and the characteristics of the sales model, as well as its impact on the market. The study found that the supply-demand imbalance, policy constraints, the lack of related regulatory systems, the imperfect sales system, the sensitive market and weak risk tolerance together with other factors all combined to lead to the frequent occurrence of the market crises. With respect to the cruise sales in China, the research puts forward the corresponding countermeasures and suggestions from the perspectives of cruise companies, travel agencies, administrators and policy-makers.