Hit hard by the pandemic, this storied cruise line will lose 29% of its ships

Jul 16, 2020

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One of the world’s most storied cruise lines is significantly shrinking in size as it manages the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Seattle-based Holland America on Wednesday announced that four of its 14 ships would leave its fleet in the coming months.

The vessels include the line’s three oldest vessels — Maasdam, Veendam and Rotterdam. All were built in the 1990s and carry 1,258 to 1,404 passengers.

The fourth ship, the 1,380-passenger Amsterdam, was unveiled in 2000.

All of the ships have sailed for Holland America for at least 20 years and are much-beloved for their small size, which is increasingly rare in the cruise world.

“It’s always difficult to see any ship leave the fleet, especially those that have a long and storied history with our company,” Holland America Group CEO Stein Kruse said in a statement. “However, Holland America Line has a bright future ahead that includes … (a new) ship next year that will continue to maintain our overall capacity in the marketplace.”

The Holland America ship Maasdam. (Photo by Tamme/Adobe Stock)
The Holland America ship Maasdam. (Photo by Tamme/Adobe Stock)

Kruse was referring to the 2,668-passenger Ryndam, which currently is under construction at a Fincantieri shipyard in Italy. It originally was due in May 2021 but is likely to be delayed.

Holland America said the four vessels leaving the Holland America fleet have been sold in pairs to undisclosed buyers. Maasdam and Veendam, which are the last of the line’s S-Class ships, will be transferred to one of the buyers in August. Amsterdam and Rotterdam, which are part of the line’s R-Class series, will go to a different buyer in the fall.

The news of the ship departures comes just days after Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corporation, revealed that the company’s nine brands would remove 13 ships from their fleets in the coming months. Donald suggested the lines were cutting costs and reorganizing in anticipation of a slow restart to cruising in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Related: Is cruising done until 2021? This line thinks so 

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

“To reduce our cash burn and have a more efficient fleet once we do resume cruising, we have aggressively shed less efficient ships,” Donald said Friday during a conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss quarterly earnings.

All nine of the Carnival Corporation brands halted departures in mid-March due to the crisis, and many have canceled all sailings into September or October. It’s a shutdown that is unprecedented in the history of modern cruising, and it’s causing the company great financial hardship.

Donald didn’t specify which ships would leave the company’s fleets. But, in addition to the newly announced Holland America ships, several more of the vessels already are known. The company’s U.K.-focused brand, P&O Cruises, announced last week that its 2,016-passenger Oceana would depart. The news came just days after the company’s Europe-focused Costa Cruises brand said its 1,928-passenger Costa Victoria had sailed its last voyage for the line.

Related: A major line is scrapping a ship that is just 23 years old

The oldest ship from the Carnival Cruise Line fleet, Carnival Fantasy, also appears headed for dismantling after 30 years of service.

TPG recently published a list of 23 ships that we thought were most likely to be laid-up, sold or scrapped in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that included Holland America’s Maasdam and Veendam as well as Costa Victoria, Carnival Fantasy and several ships from Carnival Corporation’s Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia brands.

Holland America said it would cancel cruises on the schedule for the four departing ships. Some select itineraries that the vessels operate will be assumed by others in its fleet.

The line said the 2021 Grand World Voyage aboard Amsterdam has been postponed until 2022 and will now take place on the line’s Zaandam. The Grand Africa Voyage aboard Rotterdam that is scheduled to begin Oct. 10, 2021, will go ahead on the same dates but on Zaandam.

Holland America said passengers booked on sailings of the ships would be notified as to whether their particular sailing had been canceled or would operate with a different vessel. Passengers will have the choice of getting a refund or rebooking on another sailing.

Canceled cruises will include scheduled Canada/New England sailings and Grand Voyages on Amsterdam; Mexico, South Pacific, Australia and Asia itineraries on Maasdam; Caribbean, Europe, Panama Canal, South America and Hawaii sailings on Rotterdam; and Caribbean and Europe itineraries on Veendam.

Holland America is one of the oldest passenger ship lines in the world, with a history that dates back to 1873. It began as a Dutch shipping line that carried passengers and cargo primarily between the Netherlands and North America. It was purchased by Carnival Corporation in 1989.

The line is known for far-flung, destination-focused itineraries that may be difficult to resume as long as coronavirus-related travel restrictions remain in many parts of the world.

Feature image by Tamme/Adobe Stock.

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