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Now this is serious: One of Carnival's most iconic cruise ships appears headed for the scrappers

July 14, 2020
7 min read
Now this is serious: One of Carnival's most iconic cruise ships appears headed for the scrappers
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It wasn't too long ago that Carnival Fantasy was the belle of the ball in the cruise world -- the first of a significant new class of Carnival Cruise Line ships. Now it appears headed to the scrappers.

The Mobile, Alabama-based vessel has filed a voyage plan for Izmir, Turkey, which is near a major ship scrapping operation that has become the final resting place for such notable vessels as the original "Love Boat," the Pacific Princess. On Tuesday, ship tracking sites showed Carnival Fantasy sailing eastward from Curacao on its way to the destination.

A spokesperson for Carnival Corporation, the parent company for Carnival Cruise Line, didn't immediately respond to questions about the ship's fate. But cruise news site Cruise Radio, citing unnamed sources, is reporting the vessel has been sold and is destined for scrapping.

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The Curacao Ports Authority on Saturday announced on Facebook that the vessel had arrived at the island's container port to unload heavy equipment -- a sign that it was being prepared for an end to service.

The Curacao Ports Authority also said the Long Beach, California-based Carnival Inspiration -- a sister ship to Carnival Fantasy -- was at its container port unloading heavy equipment. Carnival Inspiration has not yet filed a voyage plan beyond its arrival in Curacao.

The news of Carnival Fantasy's transit to Turkey 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 as they cut costs and reorganize in anticipation of a slow restart to cruising in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“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.

Donald suggested the ships leaving the various fleets would be their older vessels. Carnival Fantasy is the oldest ship in the Carnival fleet.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

Unveiled in 1990, Carnival Fantasy is the oldest ship in the Carnival fleet. (Photo by Andy Newman courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line).
Unveiled in 1990, Carnival Fantasy is the oldest ship in the Carnival fleet. (Photo by Andy Newman courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line).

Based in Miami, Carnival Corporation is the parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Seabourn and five other brands that went into the coronavirus crisis with a combined fleet of 104 ships.

Together, the nine brands account for about 45% of all cruises taken in the world.

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 several 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 cruise ship that is just 23 years old

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 Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Inspiration as well as several ships from Carnival Corporation’s Holland America, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia brands.

Carnival Fantasy had been scheduled to continue sailing out of Alabama through at least early 2022. As of Tuesday morning, sailings on the vessel out of Mobile remained available for booking on the Carnival website.

Unveiled in 1990, Carnival Fantasy has a storied place in the history of Carnival and the cruising world in general. It was the original vessel for the line's hugely successful, eight-ship Fantasy Class series. For years, the ships were the workhorses of the Carnival fleet.

At the time Carnival Fantasy debuted, Carnival had just a handful of ships. The arrival of the vessel and its sisters catapulted the line into the big leagues of North American tourism.

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

For now, all seven of Carnival Fantasy's sisters, unveiled between 1991 and 1998, remain in the Carnival fleet.

At 70,367 tons, Carnival Fantasy was one of the biggest cruise ships in the world when it debuted. It held 2,052 passengers, based on double occupancy, which was a lot at the time. But it now doesn't even come close to cracking the list of the 50 biggest cruise vessels, some of which can hold more than 5,000 people. Cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger over time.

Carnival Fantasy is now less than half the size of the world's biggest cruise ships, including Carnival's soon-to-debut Mardi Gras. The new, 180,000-ton Carnival flagship is scheduled to debut in February after a coronavirus pandemic-caused delay.

Related: New Carnival cruise ship will have a roller coaster on deck. Really

Carnival in recent years has used Carnival Fantasy and other now-relatively-small Fantasy Class vessels for sailings from secondary ports such as Mobile that can't necessarily support a larger ship. But the vessels are approaching the end of their useful lives. They are less efficient to operate than bigger, more modern vessels. They also lack a large number of balconies, which command a higher price from cruisers than cabins without balconies.

Carnival Fantasy isn't the only notable cruise vessel on the way to Turkey. On Monday, Pullmantur Cruises' Monarch arrived in the vicinity of the ship scrapping operation near Izmir. The three-ship, Spain-based line last month announced that it was insolvent and was reorganizing under Spanish insolvency laws, and there have been reports that all three of its vessels would be scrapped.

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

Monarch is the former Royal Caribbean ship Monarch of the Seas.

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Featured image by The 2,052-passenger Carnival Fantasy. (Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

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