Here are all the cruise ships we’ve lost to the COVID-19 crisis
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It’s been a tough 12 months for hardcore cruise fans — and not just because cruising at many lines has been completely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cruise lovers also have had to grapple with the unexpected news that some of their favourite cruise ships were never coming back.
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Facing a huge drop in revenue due to the cruising hiatus and spiralling financial losses, many of the world’s biggest cruise lines over the past year have shed a significant number of ships from their fleets in what amounts to permanent downsising.
Holland America, for instance, has permanently removed four of its 14 ships since last summer — a 29% reduction in its fleet size. Princess Cruises since September has removed five ships from its fleet (two of which already had been scheduled to leave). The brand now is down to just 14 vessels.
In a few cases, entire cruise lines — all relatively small ones — have shut down permanently, with most or all of their vessels unlikely to ever return to service.
Not all the ships are gone forever
In many cases, the ships that cruise lines have shed from their fleets have been sent to scrapyards to be disassembled. They’ll never sail again.
But in some cases, the vessels have been sold to another cruise line or a ferry company. That means that when cruising resumes, they may have a second life operating as a cruise ship or a ferry somewhere else in the world.
One deacquisitioned vessel — Princess’s Sun Princess — is destined for an even more unusual future. It has been sold to a Japan-based non-government organization (NGO) that runs educational programmes designed to promote peace around the world.
One bright spot in all the downsising for cruise fans is that not all cruise companies have been shedding ships. Among major lines resisting the trend to downsising — at least so far — are Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Silversea and Celebrity Cruises.
Still, it’s been an unprecedented year for fleet downsising. Here, a look at some of the most notable ships that the cruise world has lost, organized by line:
Carnival Cruise Line
The world’s second-biggest cruise line by passenger capacity has shed four of its oldest ships over the past year. All four were from the line’s once-iconic Fantasy Class series. The eight ships in the series began debuting in 1990 and for many years were the workhorses of the Carnival fleet, helping the brand grow from a small line into the cruising colossus that it is today.
Sailing since: 1990
Carnival Fantasy was the first of eight Fantasy Class vessels at Carnival that debuted in the 1990s, innovative for their time. At around 70,000 tons, it was one of the world’s largest ships when it first began cruising. But it has been eclipsed over the years by far bigger, more modern vessels with more amenities. By comparison, Carnival’s newest ship — the 5,282-passenger Mardi Gras — measures 181,808 tons.
Unlike more modern vessels, Carnival Fantasy lacks a large number of balcony cabins — the type of cabins everyone wants these days. Balcony cabins were much rarer three decades ago when it was built.
Based until recently in Mobile, Alabama, Carnival Fantasy carried 2,052 passengers at double occupancy.
Sailing since: 1994
Status: Sold to Century Harmony Cruise Ltd. (renamed Century Harmony)
Like Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Fascination was a Fantasy Class ship built in the 1990s. For many years, it sailed for Carnival out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, though it originally debuted in New York. It had been scheduled to replace the Carnival Fantasy in Mobile, Alabama, next year.
The ship’s new owner, a Chinese company, reportedly plans to turn the vessel into a floating hotel.
Sailing since: 1995
Carnival Imagination was a fixture in recent years in the port of Long Beach, California, where it was based for short, inexpensive getaways to Ensenada, Mexico.
Like Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Fascination, it was one of Carnival’s eight Fantasy Class ships. Unlike some of the others, it had been retrofitted over the years with extra balcony cabins. But that wasn’t enough to keep it from the scrappers during the past year’s downturn.
Like its sisters, Carnival Imagination measured about 70,000 tons and held just over 2,000 passengers, based on double occupancy.
Sailing since: 1996
Like its recently scrapped sister ship Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration was most recently based at the Port of Long Beach in California, and it was a favourite among Californians looking for an inexpensive short getaway. Like Carnival Imagination, it sailed quick trips to Mexico.
Carnival Inspiration carried 2,056 passengers, based on double occupancy, and measured about 70,000 tons.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted Holland America’s managers to cut back the line’s fleet sharply. In all, the brand has lost four ships over the past year — nearly a third of the vessels it operated at the start of 2020.
With their departures, Holland America now only has 10 ships — fewer than it has had in many years. That said, Holland America is scheduled to get its 11th ship later this year with the debut of the 2,668-passenger Rotterdam. Currently under construction at a shipyard in Italy, the vessel was ordered long before the coronavirus crisis began. It’ll take the place of a ship of the same name that was one of the four that left the fleet in recent months.
The four vessels that have left the Holland America fleet over the past year include its three oldest vessels — Maasdam, Veendam and Rotterdam. All were built in the 1990s.
Sailing since: 1992
Status: Sold to Seajets (renamed Aegean Myth)
Maasdam’s small size — it measured just 55,000 tons and carried 1,258 passengers — made it a favourite in the Holland America fleet among cruisers who like the intimacy of smaller ships. But its small size also made it a prime target for the chopping block. Smaller ships generally are less efficient and less profitable than bigger ships.
Its new owner, Seajets, is a Greek/Cypriot ferry company operating ferry services in the Aegean Sea.
Sailing since: 1996
Status: Sold to Seajets (renamed Aegean Majesty)
Like Maasdam, Veendam had a lot of fans at Holland America due to its intimate size. Measuring just 57,000 tons, it was part of the same Statendam Class to which Maasdam belonged, although it held slightly more passengers — 1,350 at double occupancy.
Like Maasdam, Veendam also was sold to Seajets, the Greek/Cypriot ferry company.
Sailing since: 1997
Status: Sold to Fred. Olsen Cruises (renamed Borealis)
Holland America’s flagship up until last year, the 1,404-passenger Rotterdam was the sixth vessel to carry the Rotterdam name at Holland America — a storied line that has its roots in the 1800s.
Measuring about 61,000 tons, Rotterdam was slightly bigger than Maasdam and Veendam. It was part of the line’s somewhat newer Rotterdam class.
Its new owner, Fred. Olsen Cruises, is a British line catering almost entirely to British cruisers.
Sailing since: 2000
Status: Sold to Fred. Olsen Cruises (renamed Bolette)
British line Fred. Olsen Cruises also acquired the 1,380-passenger Amsterdam from Holland America, renaming it Bolette. Together, the two ships are replacing two older, smaller Fred. Olsen vessels (Boudicca and Black Watch) and will take over their itineraries once the line resumes sailings.
The replacement of the two ships is increasing Fred. Olsen’s overall capacity by about 30%, making it one of the few lines that actually has grown considerably in size on a passenger capacity basis during the recent cruise industry shutdown.
The Princess fleet has undergone a significant downsising over the past year with five ships departing. Three of the ships — Sun Princess, Sea Princess and Pacific Princess — were sold as part of an effort to cut costs during the coronavirus-caused global shutdown. Two others — Golden Princess and Star Princess — already had been scheduled to leave the Princess fleet even before the coronavirus pandemic began (though their departures were accelerated). As previously planned, Golden Princess and Star Princess were transferred to a Princess sister company, P&O Cruises Australia.
With the departures, Princess is down to just 14 vessels.
Sailing since: 1995
Status: Sold to Peace Boat (renamed Pacific World)
Unveiled in 1995, the 2,000-passenger Sun Princess was the oldest vessel in the Princess fleet and — at 77,000 tons — one of the smallest, too. That made it a logical pick for downsising.
Its new owner, Peace Boat, is a Japan-based international NGO working to promote peace, human rights and sustainability. It offers cruises that have a programme centred on experiential learning and intercultural communication.
Sun Princess, notably, had a turn as a TV star. The ship appeared as the backdrop in 1998 and 1999 for 27 episodes of “Love Boat: The Next Wave.”
Sailing since: 1998
Status: Sold to Sanya International Cruise Development Co. Ltd. (renamed Charming)
A sister to Sun Princess, the 2,000-passenger Sea Princess also was one of the oldest and smallest ships in the Princess fleet. Both of the ships were part of the same Sun Class at Princess with vessels that measured around 77,000 tons.
Its new owners, a China-based company, plan to use it to start a new China-based cruise line for domestic cruising.
Sailing since: 1999
Status: Sold to investment firm Sycamore Partners to sail for Azamara
Far smaller than any other Princess ship, Pacific Princess had been an outlier in the line’s fleet for some time. Measuring just 30,277 tons, it was nearly five times smaller than the latest Princess vessels such as the one-year-old Sky Princess. It holds just 680 passengers at double occupancy — more than 80% fewer than the newest Princess ships.
Built in the late 1990s for long-defunct Renaissance Cruises, Pacific Princess was a sister to seven other “R-class” vessels that now form the core of the fleets of Oceania and Azamara. It’s built more for the sort of intimate, smaller-ship, destination-focused cruising that those two lines offer.
Note that this Pacific Princess should not be confused with the original Pacific Princess, which famously served as the backdrop for the original “Love Boat” series of the 1970s and 1980s. That ship was scrapped in 2014.
Sailing since: 2001
Status: Transferred to P&O Cruises Australia (renamed Pacific Adventure)
The 2,600-passenger Golden Princess was one of a long line of Grand Class vessels at Princess that helped define the brand over the past two decades. Even after its departure (and the departure of the Star Princess; see below), the Grand Class vessels still represent the majority of the Princess fleet.
Princess announced in 2017 that Golden Princess would eventually be transferred to P&O Cruises Australia, an Australia-based line owned by the same parent company. But the transfer was moved up after the industrywide shutdown to cruising operations due to COVID-19.
Sailing since: 2002
Status: Transferred to P&O Cruises Australia (renamed Pacific Encounter)
Like Golden Princess, the 2,600-passenger Star Princess has been transferred a bit earlier than expected to Princess sister line P&O Cruises Australia. But with cruising in Australia mostly shut down, it has yet to sail for its new owners.
The ship was part of the same Grand Class series that included Golden Princess, and it was for many years one of the line’s premier vessels.
The world’s largest cruise line by passenger capacity has removed two vessels from its fleet over the past year, leaving it with just 24 ships for now. The two vessels — Empress of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas — were the lines oldest and smallest ships and increasingly outliers in its fleet. Empress of the Seas, notably, measured just 48,563 tons — three to four times smaller than the big, amenity-filled ships that Royal Caribbean has been rolling out in recent years. Still, both of these vessels were much-beloved by Royal Caribbean fans, in part due to their smaller size.
Empress of the Seas
Sailing since: 1990
Status: Sold to Cordelia Cruises (renamed Empress)
Royal Caribbean’s oldest ship was increasingly an outlier in the line’s fleet, which is increasingly dominated by giant mega-ships that are chock full of amusements. At 48,563 tons, Empress of the Seas was nearly five times smaller than Royal Caribbean’s big Oasis Class vessels.
Called Nordic Empress when it originally debuted in 1990, Empress of the Seas also was 30 years old, which is old for a Royal Caribbean ship.
Notably, Royal Caribbean already had removed Empress of the Seas from its fleet once before, in 2008, when it transferred the vessel to the Royal Caribbean-affiliated Spanish line Pullmantur. But Royal Caribbean brought Empress of the Seas back to its fleet in 2016 to operate sailings to Cuba, which only can be done by smaller ships due to limitations at Cuban ports. Cruises from the U.S. to Cuba have since ceased due to changing government policy.
Empress of the Seas’ new owner, Cordelia Cruises, is a start-up cruise line in India.
Majesty of the Seas
Sailing since: 1992
Status: Sold to Seajets (renamed Majesty)
Sailing for Royal Caribbean since 1992, Majesty of the Seas was the second-oldest ship in the line’s fleet. It also was the line’s only remaining Sovereign Class vessel — the Sovereign Class is an iconic series of ships that helped revolutionize the cruise industry. Two other Sovereign Class vessels that originally sailed for Royal Caribbean were transferred years ago to Royal Caribbean-affiliated Pullmantur.
Measuring just 74,077 tons, Majesty of the Seas was popular with Royal Caribbean fans who prefer smaller ships. It carried 2,350 passengers at double occupancy. It sailed out of New Orleans.
Majesty of the Seas’ new owner, Seajets, is the same Greek/Cypriot ferry company that bought Holland America’s Maasdam and Veendam.
The downsising at Costa Cruises over the past year has been nearly as sharp, on a percentage basis, as the downsising at Holland America. Four ships have left Costa’s fleet, leaving the brand with just 12 vessels.
Sailing since: 1993
Status: Sold to Celestyal Cruises (renamed Celestyal Experience)
Dating to 1993, this was Costa Cruises’ oldest ship. At 56,869 tons, it also was the line’s smallest ship. Those two factors made it an outlier in the Costa fleet and a prime target during the line’s recent downsising. Costa’s newest vessel measures more than 185,000 tons.
The ship was part of Costa’s Classica Class series and held 1,578 passengers at double occupancy.
It’s been sold to Celestyal Cruises, which is known for cruises in the Greek Isles and will sail under the name Celestyal Experience.
Sailing since: 1996
Unveiled in 1996, this 1,928-passenger vessel was one of the first ships to face the scrappers as cruise lines began cutting vessels in 2020. It was only 23 years old at the time, which was unusually young for a modern-day cruise ship to be scrapped. It had spent its entire career sailing for Costa Cruises.
Measuring 77,000 tons, Costa Victoria was part of the line’s Victoria Class series.
Sailing since: 2000
Status: Transferred to CSSC Carnival Shipping (Carnival China)
The 2,114-passenger Costa Atlantica has been transferred to CSSC Carnival Shipping, a joint venture between Costa’s parent company, Carnival Corp., and two Chinese entities, the Chinese sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation and Chinese shipbuilder China State Shipbuilding Corporation. Together they are developing a new cruise brand for the Chinese market.
Costa Atlantica was, notably, the first modern cruise ship to be purpose-built for Costa. It’s a sister ship to the four Spirit Class vessels operated by Carnival, a sister brand. It measures about 85,000 tons.
Sailing since: 2003
Status: Transferred to CSSC Carnival Shipping (Carnival China)
Like Costa Atlantica, the 2,114-passenger Costa Mediterranean will be sailing in Asia for a new line aimed at Chinese travellers that will be jointly owned by Carnival Corp. and two Chinese entities.
The 85,000-ton ship also is a sister vessel to the four Spirit Class ships at sister line Carnival.
British line P&O Cruises has removed a single ship from its small fleet since the coronavirus crisis began, the 2,000-passenger Oceana. That leaves it with six vessels.
Sailing since: 2000
Status: Sold to Seajets (renamed Queen of the Oceans)
Longtime Princess fans will remember Oceana as the Princess ship Ocean Princess. When it originally debuted in 2000, it sailed under the Princess banner with that name. But its time under the Princess banner didn’t last long. In 2002, it was transferred to sister line P&O Cruises and sailed for P&O Cruises right up until early last year.
In another tie to Princess, Oceana is a sister to the Sea Princess and Sun Princess mentioned above, which have just recently left the Princess fleet. Like those vessels, it measures about 77,000 tons and carries around 2,000 passengers, based on double occupancy.
The company that bought Oceana, Seajets, is the same Greek/Cypriot ferry company that bought Holland America’s Maasdam and Veendam, and Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas.
P&O Cruises Australia
Australian-focused P&O Cruises Australia (a sister line to British-focused P&O Cruises as well as Princess) has shed two ships over the past year but also gained two (from Princess, see above).
Sailing since: 1991
Originally ordered by long-defunct Sitmar Cruises, this 2,016-passenger ship began life sailing for Princess after Princess bought Sitmar. It initially sailed as the Regal Princess and was part of the original Crown Class designed by legendary Italian architect Renzo Piano. It transferred to the P&O Cruises Australia fleet in 2007.
At the time of the industrywide shutdown in 2020, Pacific Dawn had been scheduled to be transferred to British line Cruise & Maritime Voyages in February 2021. But the collapse of Cruise & Maritime Voyages in July brought an end to those plans. For a brief period, efforts were underway to turn the ship into a floating village for digital nomads and crypto enthusiasts. But that quickly fell apart, and the ship was scrapped.
Sailing since: 1994
Status: Sold to Seajets (renamed Aegean Goddess)
The 1,258-passenger Pacific Aria was originally built as the Ryndam for Holland America, and it sailed for that line for more than two decades. It only was transferred to P&O Cruises Australia in 2015 (Holland America and P&O Cruises Australia share the same parent company).
Like the Pacific Dawn, Pacific Aria had been scheduled to be transferred to British line Cruise & Maritime Voyages. But the collapse of Cruise & Maritime Voyages in July brought an end to those plans. It was later sold to Seajets, the Greek-Cypriot ferry company.
In addition to the ships above from relatively large lines, the coronavirus crisis has led to the scrapping or sale of quite a few vessels from smaller cruise companies — including a few vessels that have been icons of the cruise world for many decades.
These vessels include all three ships that operated for Spanish line Pullmantur, which collapsed in June. One of the Pullmantur ships was the former Sovereign of the Seas, a legendary vessel in the history of modern cruising that originally sailed for Royal Caribbean. Though small by today’s standards, it was considered the very first modern mega-ship. It was scrapped in July in a development that was heartbreaking for many long-time cruise fans.
Also scrapped was Pullmantur’s Monarch, the former Monarch of the Seas. It was a sister ship to Sovereign of the Seas.
The collapse of British line Cruise & Maritime Voyages also has led to the scrapping of several ships — specifically Columbus, Magellan, Astor and Marco Polo. Columbus originally sailed as Princess’s Star Princess, and Magellan sailed as Carnival’s Holiday.
Originally built as the ocean liner Aleksandr Pushkin in 1965, the Marco Polo was one of the oldest ocean liners still sailing until 2020.
Also recently scrapped was one of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s two vessels: Grand Celebration. Unveiled in 1987, the ship originally sailed at Carnival as Celebration and it played an important role in that line’s early years. In addition, one ship from British line Marella Cruises (Marella Celebration) has been scrapped. It originally sailed as Holland America’s Noordam.
A second Marella vessel, Marella Dream, has been taken out of service. It had previously sailed for Home Lines as Homeric, for Holland America as Westerdam, and for Costa as Costa Europa.
The collapse of Indian line Jalesh Cruises in October also led to the scrapping of its only ship, a former Princess vessel. And the former Carnival ship Tropicale, which most recently was sailing for Peace Boat, also has gone to the scrappers.
Meanwhile, the fate of Fred. Olsen’s newly retired Black Watch and Boudicca, which the line has replaced with two former Holland America ships (see the Holland America section above), is in doubt. Both are iconic cruise ships that originally sailed for the famed Royal Viking Line — once the world’s premier luxury line. But they are now are nearly 50 years old.
Well over three dozen cruise ships were scrapped or sold over the past year as cruise lines struggled to survive. When cruising eventually resumes, fans of such lines as Carnival, Princess, Holland America and Royal Caribbean will find that their favourite brands aren’t quite as big as they once were. That said, many lines are moving ahead with long-established plans to add new, built-from-the-ground-up vessels over the next few years.
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Featured image courtesy of Tamme/Adobe Stock
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