Coronavirus crisis claims another small cruise line — the third in a month

Jul 29, 2020

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Another small cruise line has shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic.

FTI Cruises, a German brand with just one ship, has operated its last voyage, according to several German cruise sites.

FTI Cruises offered voyages in Europe and the Caribbean that catered to English speakers as well as Germans. Both English and German were spoken on board its one vessel, the 412-passenger Berlin.

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FTI Cruises is a subsidiary of FTI Group, one of the largest tour operators in Europe. In addition to FTI Cruises, it owns multiple tour companies, a rental car company, a hospitality company with five hotel brands and the flight booking portal fly.de.

FTI Cruises is the third small cruise brand to fold this month as the coronavirus-caused halt to most cruising worldwide takes a growing toll on the industry.

Just last week, U.K.-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages shut down after days of scrambling to find emergency funding.

FTI Cruises Berlin
The 412-passenger Berlin starred for many years in a German television show called Das Traumschiff (“The Dream Ship”). (Photo by Piergiuliano Chesi)

Catering mostly to British travellers, the six-ship brand was the U.K.’s second-biggest cruise operator after Carnival Corporation’s P&O Cruises.

Cruise & Maritime’s collapse, in turn, came just two weeks after Sweden-based Birka Cruises went out of business, citing the financial pressures of the coronavirus pandemic. Birka Cruises offered two- to four-night Baltic cruises out of Stockholm, Sweden, as well as day trips around the Stockholm archipelago.

The coronavirus crisis also has led to the insolvency of Spain-based Pullmantur Cruises. The three-ship operator, which is partly owned by Royal Caribbean Group, announced last month that it had filed for reorganization under Spanish insolvency laws.

Pullmantur blamed headwinds from the coronavirus pandemic that were “too strong … to overcome”.

Related: Cruise giant Carnival to be a smaller line when cruising resumes 

It is unclear whether Pullmantur will return to operations. Two of Pullmantur’s three ships in recent days have sailed to ship-scrapping town Aliaga, Turkey, for dismantling.

A spokesperson for FTI Cruises did not immediately respond to questions from TPG about the fate of Berlin, the line’s one ship. Dating to 1980, the seven-deck vessel is now 40 years old.

English speakers may recall Berlin as the former Spirit of Adventure at U.K.-based cruise line Saga Cruises. The vessel has been sailing for FTI Cruises since 2012.

Berlin originally was built for the now-defunct Peter Deilmann Cruises.

Berlin is a well-known ship in Germany, where it starred for more than a decade on a popular television show called Das Traumschiff (“The Dream Ship”). The show is sort of a German equivalent of American television’s “The Love Boat.”

The coronavirus-caused halt to most cruising around the world has taken a financial toll on many cruise brands, but so far the only lines to shut down are based in Europe.

Related: Why the scrapping of Sovereign of the Seas is so heartbreaking 

The big, publicly traded cruise companies that control many of North America’s biggest cruise brands, including Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Group, have said they have enough liquidity to stay solvent well into 2021 — even if cruising doesn’t resume in a meaningful way.

Carnival Corporation is the parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn and five overseas brands.

Royal Caribbean Group is the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea.

While many major lines have pushed back their return to operations until at least October, a few lines are hoping to resume sailings in select areas around the world earlier. Indeed, a handful of lines — mostly river lines — already have restarted sailings in Europe. For now, the trips only are available to local travellers from select European countries.

Featured image by Piergiuliano Chesi

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