The great cruise ship shuffle: These 7 classic vessels are switching brands as some lines downsize

Sep 27, 2020

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Don’t look now, but your favorite cruise ship may soon be sailing for another line.

Even as some cruise brands sell vessels to cut costs during the coronavirus crisis, others are scooping up the ships to upgrade their fleets.

Two classic Holland America ships that the line recently removed from its fleet as part of a downsizing move, for instance, have been sold to U.K.-based Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines (yes, the line has a dot in its name after Fred; Fred. is short for Fredrik).

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Long called Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the two former Holland America ships that are switching brands soon will be sailing under the new names of Bolette and Borealis.

Also finding a new home recently was Costa Cruises’ neoRomantica, which has now popped up in the fleet of Mediterranean-based Celestyal Cruises.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles 

Celestyal Experience
The former Costa Cruises ship neoRomantica, now called Celestyal Experience, in its new Celestyal Cruises livery. (Photo courtesy of Celestyal Cruises)

Alas, not all the vessels leaving cruise fleets — and there are a lot of them — will have a second act. Quite a few are heading to the scrappers. That’s been the fate recently for three Carnival Cruise Line ships from the line’s groundbreaking Fantasy Class and one of the most iconic Royal Caribbean vessels ever built.

Meanwhile, the fate of some ships that are on the way out from lines remains unknown. Five classic vessels that until recently were operated by U.K.-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages, which collapsed in July amidst a COVID-related halt to cruises and is being liquidated, are going up for auction in October. They could be bought by another line for continued use as cruise ships or by a scrapping firm that would disassemble them for their scrap metal.

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

The Cruise & Maritime Voyages vessels include classic ships that once sailed for Carnival, Holland America and Princess.

Here, a look at seven of the most notable vessels that have been or soon will be switching brands during the coronavirus crisis (listed by their original names).

Holland America’s Rotterdam

Unveiled in 1997, Rotterdam was the first vessel in Holland America’s much-loved R Class series, and for years it was considered the line’s flagship.

Rotterdam was the sixth vessel in Holland America’a 147-year history to carry the name, which has a long history at the line. Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, notably, christened the vessel on Dec. 9, 1997, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines in July announced that it had purchased Rotterdam from Holland America for an undisclosed price and would be reintroducing it as Borealis.

The ship, which holds 1,404 passengers, is scheduled to sail to various destinations in Europe out of Liverpool, UK, starting in April 2021.

Holland America’s Amsterdam

Unveiled in 2000, Amsterdam was the last of four vessels in Holland America’s R Class to debut, and for many years it shared the title of Holland America flagship with Rotterdam.

Like Rotterdam, the ship has joined the Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines fleet, where it has been renamed Bolette. It initially will sail out of Southampton and Dover in the UK to destinations in Europe. It’ll eventually work its way to South America.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines recently announced that it was retiring two of its four ships — the 853-guest Boudicca and 799-guest Black Watch — to make room for the two newcomers.

“We have chosen these (Holland America) vessels as they will fit seamlessly into our existing fleet of small ships, each carrying under 1,500 guests, bringing with them new and larger public areas whilst not compromising on our small ship experience,” Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines chairman Fred. Olsen Jr. said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the ship purchases.

The additions will increase Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines capacity by about 30%.

The line primarily draws British passengers.

Costa neoRomantica

Dating to 1993, the 1,578-passenger Costa NeoRomantica until recently was one of the smallest ships at Costa Cruises. But it was sold over the summer to Cyprus-based Celestyal Cruises and has been renamed Celestyal Experience.

It’ll now offer week-long trips in the Eastern Mediterranean, which is Celestyal’s specialty, starting with a March 6 voyage. The “Three Continents” itinerary will include stops in Greece (Athens and Rhodes), Turkey (Kusadasi), Israel (Ashdod), Egypt (Port Said) and Cyprus (Limassol).

Beginning on April 3, the ship will operate Celestyal’s “Idyllic Aegean” itinerary, which brings visits to Athens, Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Milos, Mykonos and Kusadasi, Turkey (for a visit to the ancient ruins of Ephesus).

Celestyal caters to an international mix of customers including Americans.

Holland America’s Maasdam and Veendam

These two Holland America vessels have been sold to the Greek ferry company Seajets, which appears to be getting into the cruise business.

Unveiled in 1993 and 1996, respectively, the ships were part of Holland America’s S Class. With their departure, Holland America no longer has a single S Class vessel.

The Holland America ship Maasdam. (Photo by Tamme/Adobe Stock)
The 1,258-passenger Maasdam as it looked when sailing for Holland America. (Photo by Tamme/Adobe Stock)

Many Holland America fans loved the S Class ships for their small size. Maasdam and Veendam carried just 1,258 and 1,350 passengers, respectively.

Seajets has renamed the ships Aegean Myth and Aegean Majesty.

P&O Cruises’ Oceana

Initially built in 2000 for Princess Cruises as Ocean Princess, this 2,016-passenger vessel also has been sold to Seajets.

It’s not the first time the ship has transferred between brands. After a brief stint at Princess Cruises in the early 2000s, it was transferred to the line’s sister brand, P&O Cruises, where it sailed for many years as Oceana.

Seajets has renamed it Queen of the Oceans.

The vessel was named Ocean Princess in 2000 with much fanfare by Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal. It later was rechristened by Anne, Princess Royal (the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II), and her daughter, Zara Phillips.

Sun Princess

Princess Cruises has said in recent days that this 2,000-passenger ship is leaving its fleet, and the vessel reportedly soon will be operated by Peace Boat.

Peace Boat is a Japan-based non-governmental organization that runs educational voyages as part of its mission of working toward peace, human rights, environmental protection and sustainable development.

Sun Princess
Princess Cruises is removing Sun Princess and sister ship Sea Princess from its fleet. (Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)

Peace Boat recently announced that it soon would be using a new vessel that it is calling Pacific World. It didn’t say that the vessel was Sun Princess, but it used a photo of the Sun Princess in its announcement, and its description of the ship was a match for Sun Princess.

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Featured image courtesy of Holland America

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