Another small cruise line shuts down as the industry continues to struggle
Make that 11 cruise lines that have shut down for good since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan-based Venus Cruise this week has posted a notice on its website that its last sailing will take place on Dec. 27.
The 33-year-old cruise brand, which operates just one ship, the 720-passenger Pacific Venus, mostly caters to Japanese travelers with sailings out of Japanese ports such as Yokohama (the port for Tokyo) and Nagoya.
Pacific Venus's last day of operations with paying passengers will be Jan. 4, 2023.
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"We have decided to end the cruise ship business in January 2023," the line said in a cryptic, three-sentence statement posted on its website.
"We sincerely thank you for your patronage over the years," the statement added.
Venus Cruise didn't say why it is going out of business in the statement. But the news comes as many cruise lines continue to struggle with reduced revenue and earnings, and high debt levels, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All major cruise lines around the world paused sailings for many months at the start of the pandemic and only slowly returned to normal operations, resulting in enormous quarterly losses that only recently have begun to moderate. The brands that have stayed in business have been forced to take on massive amounts of debt to survive.
Venus Cruise is just the latest of a string of 11 mostly small cruise operators that have gone out of business since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Other lines have shut down over the past three years, almost all citing the financial affects of the pandemic, include luxury line Crystal Cruises and its two Asia-based sister brands, Dream Cruises and Star Cruises; India-based Jalesh Cruises; Swedish-based Birka Cruises; U.S.-based small ship specialist Blount Small Ship Adventures; and U.K.-based Cruise and Maritime Voyages.
Related: Luxury line Crystal faces liquidation as cash runs out
The latter brand was the second largest cruise brand in the U.K. before collapsing in July 2020.
German-based FTI Cruises and Spain-based Pullmantur also ceased operations during the pandemic. Pullmantur, which was partly owned by Royal Caribbean Group, the parent company of Royal Caribbean, was the first cruise company to collapse during the pandemic, just three months after cruise ships stopped sailing in 2020.
Also shutting down, in 2021, was Caribbean-focused Sail Windjammer, which operated a historic sailing vessel once owned by the American financier E. F. Hutton and his wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post.
That said, at least one of the brands — luxury line Crystal — is in the midst of making a comeback under new owners.
The high-end travel company A&K Travel Group in June announced it had bought the bankrupt line's brand name and two biggest oceangoing ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, with plans to relaunch Crystal in 2023.
Meanwhile, in a good sign for the future financial health of the industry, the world's biggest cruise companies, including Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Carnival Corporation, have all been reporting increased passenger counts and revenue in recent quarters and have projected a return to relatively normal revenue levels and profits over the coming year.
The companies are hoping a return to profitability will allow them to begin paying down the massive debt that they took on during the pandemic and repair their balance sheets.
Related: Carnival Corporation CEO discusses the company's financial troubles
The turn in the financial fortunes reported by the big cruise companies, which are publicly traded and disclose their financial situation in regulatory filings, suggests that the worst may soon be behind the cruise industry.
Royal Caribbean is the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises.
Carnival Corporation is the parent company of nine brands including Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America and Seabourn.
The loss of Venus Cruise will leave a hole in the Japanese cruise market. The company is one of just three based in Japan that operate cruises. The others, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and NYK Line, also each operate just one ship. California-based Princess Cruises also has a significant presence in the Japanese market.
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