A third Carnival Cruise Line ship appears headed for the scrappers

Aug 26, 2020

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It looks like a third Carnival Cruise Line ship is headed for the scrappers.

The 2,056-passenger Carnival Imagination has filed a voyage plan for Aliaga, Turkey, the site of a major ship scrapping operation that has become the final resting place for such notable vessels as Princess Cruises‘ Pacific Princess — the original “Love Boat.”

On Wednesday, ship tracking sites showed Carnival Imagination docked at the Caribbean island of Curacao in advance of the multi-week sailing to Aliaga.

Curacao is the same starting point from which two other Carnival ships — Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Inspiration — departed for the scrapyards of Aliaga in July.

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A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line did not immediately respond to questions about Carnival Imagination’s fate.

Unveiled in 1995, Carnival Imagination is one of the oldest ships in the Carnival fleet. In recent years, it has sailed to Mexico out of Long Beach, California, and it was popular with cruisers who lived in California and other western states. But its fate has been up in the air in recent weeks after Carnival said it wouldn’t return to service when cruising resumed.

Carnival in late July said both Carnival Imagination and a second ship, Carnival Fascination, would enter a long-term layup with no timetable for resuming service.

Carnival Fascination currently is docked in Cadiz, Spain.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles 

Carnival Imagination
Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Imagination docked in Nassau during happier times. (Photo by Sergey Vedenskiy/Getty Images)

Carnival and several sister brands that fall under the Carnival Corporation umbrella have been shedding ships in recent months as they conserve cash during the coronavirus-caused shutdown of most cruising worldwide.

Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald revealed in July that the company’s nine brands had arranged to remove 13 ships from their fleets in the coming months as they cut costs and reorganize in anticipation of a slow restart to cruising. The company later said two more vessels would leave its fleets, bringing the total to 15.

“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 July 10 during a conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss quarterly earnings.

Based in Miami, Carnival Corporation is the parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises 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 or most sailings into November. Some of the lines have canceled sailings even further out. It’s a shutdown that is unprecedented in the history of modern cruising, and it’s causing the company great financial hardship.

Related: One Carnival Corporation brand just canceled sailings into March

Donald didn’t specify which ships would leave the company’s fleets. But most of them are now known. Carnival Corporation’s Holland America brand last month announced it would remove four vessels from its fleet. The company’s U.K.-focused brand, P&O Cruises, recently said one of its vessels would depart as did the company’s Europe-focused Costa Cruises brand.

Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Fantasy are all part of Carnival’s long successful, eight-ship Fantasy Class series. The vessels debuted between 1990 and 1998 and for years were the workhorses of the Carnival fleet.

Going into the coronavirus shutdown, all eight of the Fantasy Class vessels remained in the Carnival fleet.

The Fantasy Class ships measure around 70,000 tons, which was big for a cruise ship in the 1990s. They now don’t even come close to cracking the list of the 50 biggest cruise vessels, some of which are more than 200,000 tons. Cruise ships have gotten bigger over time.

Carnival’s soon-to-debut Mardi Gras, its new flagship, will measure around 180,000 tons. Mardi Gras originally was due this year but has been delayed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Carnival in recent years has used many of the Fantasy Class vessels for sailings from secondary ports that can’t necessarily support a larger ship. Carnival Fantasy sailed from Mobile, Alabama, for instance. 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 Imagination and its two sister ships aren’t the only notable cruise vessels to travel to the ship scrapping yards of Aliaga, Turkey, in recent weeks. Last month, one of the most iconic vessels of modern cruising history, the former Royal Caribbean ship Sovereign of the Seas, was sent to Aliaga for scrapping. So was its sister ship, the former Monarch of the Seas.

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

Pullmantur, a Spain-based line that is partially owned by Royal Caribbean through a joint venture, was operating both of the former Royal Caribbean vessels. In June, Pullmantur announced it was insolvent and was reorganizing under Spanish insolvency laws.

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

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Feature image by Sergey Vedenskiy/Getty Images

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