Report: Three more classic cruise ships may be headed to the scrappers

Jul 3, 2020

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Make that four classic cruise ships that soon could be on the way to the scrappers.

Cruise publication Cruise Industry News on Friday reported that the three vessels in the fleet of Royal Caribbean-affiliated Pullmantur Cruises will likely be scrapped in Turkey.

The report comes just days after Spain-based Pullmantur announced that it was insolvent and had filed for reorganization under Spanish insolvency laws. The line blamed headwinds from the coronavirus pandemic that were “too strong … to overcome.”

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Already, one other ship is on its way to the scrappers. Just this week, Carnival Corporation-owned Costa Cruises confirmed that its 1,928-passenger Costa Victoria had been transferred to a shipyard company that dismantles ships. It was the first ship to be sold for scrap in the wake of the coronavirus-caused cruising shutdown.

Cruise executives including Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald have been hinting in recent weeks that quite a few ships could be scrapped in the coming months as the cruise industry navigates an unprecedented shutdown of operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While Pullmantur is little known to most Americans, its three ships are well-known to cruise fans. They include the former Celebrity Cruises ship Horizon and former Royal Caribbean vessels Monarch of the Seas and Sovereign of the Seas. The ships have sailed for Pullmantur under the names Horizon, Monarch and Sovereign.

Pullmantur removed a fourth ship from its fleet, Zenith, in January. The vessel was the former Celebrity ship Zenith.

Related: The coronavirus pandemic has claimed its first cruise line

The 2,282-passenger Sovereign is a particularly notable vessel that was much-beloved by Royal Caribbean fans when it sailed as Sovereign of the Seas. Unveiled in 1988, it was billed as the world’s first “mega-ship,” and it offered such then-revolutionary features as a five-deck Centrum with glass elevators, sweeping staircases and fountains in marble pools.

At around 73,000 tons, Sovereign of the Seas was the biggest purpose-built cruise ship ever when it launched, though it has been eclipsed in size many times over during the past three decades.

Sovereign of the Seas sailed for Royal Caribbean until 2008 when it was transferred to Pullmantur and renamed Sovereign.

Unveiled in 1991, Monarch sailed for Royal Caribbean as Monarch of the Seas until 2013, when it was transferred to the Pullmantur fleet. Unveiled in 1990, Horizon sailed for Celebrity until 2005.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles 

The parent company of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, Royal Caribbean Cruises, owns 49% of Pullmantur through a joint venture with Cruise Investment Holding.

Royal Caribbean Cruises also is the parent company of Azamara and Silversea. It also is a part owner of German brand TUI Cruises through a joint venture.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean Cruises did not immediately respond to questions about the future of the Pullmantur vessels.

Royal Caribbean Cruises has said all its assets related to Pullmantur were included in a non-cash asset impairment charge reported in its first-quarter results. In part due to the write-down of Pullmantur assets, Royal Caribbean Cruises reported a $1.4 billion loss, or $6.91 per share, for the first quarter. That compares to a profit of $249.7 million, or $1.19 per share, during the same period a year earlier.

The insolvency filing for Pullmantur does not affect Royal Caribbean Cruises’ fully-owned brands such as Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. Wall Street analysts in recent weeks have suggested that a recent bond sale by Royal Caribbean Cruises should allow the company to remain solvent for well over a year even if cruising doesn’t resume.

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

Both Sovereign and Monarch were among the 23 vessels that TPG recently highlighted as the most likely to be laid-up, sold or scrapped in the coming months as the cruise industry cuts capacity. Costa Victoria was on the list, too.

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Feature image of Pullmantur’s recently retired Zenith by Val Traveller/Adobe Stock.

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