Pandemic sees the end of a score of much-loved cruise ships

Fred. Olsen Boudicca

The effective lockdown on cruising brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many of the cruise lines have decided to take the unwelcome but unavoidable step of selling off older vessels for scrap.

It means that some much-loved ships will be sailing no more, and the fleet that will be providing future cruises will be significantly different from that which operated up until last year. 

As well as some of the older vessels with working lives of 50 years or more – and built as long ago as the 1960’s and 1970’s – more recently built ships would normally be expected to continue in service for 40 years at least, albeit transferred between the premium cruise operators and smaller specialist companies. However, the current exceptional circumstances mean that relatively young vessels are now being scrapped in considerable numbers. 

For example, last summer Costa Cruises’ Costa Victoria, only built in 1996, was sent for scrapping and Carnival Corporation stated that 13 ships would be sold off and removed from service – with others placed in long-term layup with no plans to rejoin the fleet.

With the collapse of UK cruise operator CMV and cruise lines looking to trim operational costs, the scrapping process is continuing. Many of the ships are being broken up in Turkey or India – both which are traditional specialists in extracting value from the metal and other fittings. As an example of the economics, some vessels are sold for several million pounds just for their scrap value.

We thought it would be interesting to provide a round-up of ships that will be sailing no more (in alphabetical order).

Astor (1987)

MS Astor

MS Astor

With a very varied history, this vessel ended up with Cruise & Maritime Voyages in 2013 acquired the ship in 2013 where it sailed a wide array of itineraries. In fact, the ship was an almost identical successor to the first Astor of 1981, which most recently sailed as Saga Pearl II for Saga Cruises.

Sold for just $1.7 million at auction, it was beached in Turkey in November 2020 for scrapping.

Black Watch (1971)

Black Watch

Black Watch 

Black Watch began life as Royal Viking Star, and was one of the most modern cruise vessels in the world when it first set sail.

Transferred to Norwegian Cruise Line in 1991. it sailed for a period as Westward. In 1994, it became Royal Cruise Line‘s Royal Odyssey before moving to Fred. Olsen in 1996 under the Black Watch name. Although retired from Fred. Olsen, its future has not finally been determined yet.

Boudicca (1973)

Boudicca

Boudicca

Like Black Watch, sister-ship Boudicca also began life with Royal Viking Line, setting sail in 1973 as Royal Viking Sky. It also briefly sailed with Norwegian Cruise Line between 1991 and 1993 as its Sunward, and then for Princess Cruises as Golden Princess until 1997. After a number of short-term owners, it was acquired by Fred. Olsen in 2005.

After being retired from the Fred. Olsen fleet, it is unlikely that it will sail again.

Carnival Fantasy (1990)

Carnival Fantasy

Carnival Fantasy 

Carnival Fantasy was revolutionary for its bright and extrovert design when it first debuted as the lead ship in Carnival‘s eight-vessel strong Fantasy Class, the largest group of passenger ships built to the same specifications at the time. Due to be replaced by Carnival Fascination this year, it was sold for scrapping in Turkey last July.

Carnival Fascination (1994)

Carnival Fascination

Carnival Fascination 

Launched in 1994, Carnival Fascination was the fourth of eight Fantasy Class ships to debut. Designed by Joe Farcus, the ship’s interiors recall the grand days of Hollywood, with public rooms like the Beverly Hills Bar named accordingly.

Originally based out of New York, the ship has had a number of homeports over the intervening 26 years. Most recently, the ship was based out of San Juan, and was due to replace Carnival Fantasy out of Mobile in 2022 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

On July 23, Carnival announced that Carnival Fascination, along with Carnival Imagination, would be withdrawn from service and placed in long-term layup. It is unlikely the ship will rejoin the fleet. Carnival Imagination made its way to the breakers on August 26; Carnival Fascination continues to languish dockside in Cadiz, Spain, where it has been moored since July.

Carnival Imagination (1995)

Carnival Imagination

Carnival Imagination

Based out of Long Beach in recent years, Carnival Imagination was one of the few Fantasy Class vessels to not have been refitted with additional exterior balcony cabins. Like the rest of the Fantasy Class, its iconic interiors were designed by longtime Carnival architect Joe Farcus, who gave Imagination’s public spaces their over-the-top look.

Carnival Cruise Lines announced July 23 that the 1995-built Carnival Imagination would be placed in long-term layup, with no immediate plans for it to re-enter the fleet. On August 26, the ship officially embarked on its last journey, sailing from Willemstad, Curacao, to Aliaga, Turkey, where it will be broken up.

Carnival Inspiration (1996)

Carnival Inspiration

Carnival Inspiration

The sixth vessel in Carnival‘s Fantasy Class, Carnival Inspiration brought more of the same whimsical Carnival fun to the line, wrapped up in longtime interior designer Joe Farcus’ sometimes wacky interior decor. Carnival Inspiration, at the time the latest in the line’s class of “SuperLiners”, brought Art Nouveau touches to public rooms like the Paris Lounge, while the Rhapsody in Blue piano bar offered ebony and stone panelling offset by aqua accents. It was, and still is, one of the more sumptuously-decorated FunShips.

Based out of Long Beach, Carnival Inspiration was docked alongside Carnival Fantasy in Curacao in July, where fittings were removed. The ship arrived in early August at Aliaga, Turkey and was beached alongside sister Carnival Fantasy and former competitor Sovereign.

Columbus (1988)

Columbus

Columbus

Columbus started life as an order for Sitmar Cruises that was converted into a newbuild for Princess Cruises after the latter swallowed up Sitmar in the late 1980’s. Christened Star Princess, the ship was notable for its distinctive circular “dome” situated above the navigation bridge.

Star Princess went on to serve a stint with P&O UK, sailing as Arcadia between 1997 and 2003. It then went on to become the lead ship for budget-oriented (and now defunct) Ocean Village cruises before ending up at P&O Cruises Australia as Pacific Pearl.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages purchased Pacific Pearl in 2017 and renamed it Columbus. Following the line’s collapse, the ship was auctioned off for just $7 million to an undisclosed Turkish buyer who has no plans to place the ship into service. It is not known if the ship will be held onto as a speculative asset or scrapped outright.

Costa Victoria (1996)

Costa Victoria

Costa Victoria

Costa Victoria was one of Costa’s most distinctive vessels, easily distinguished by its banks of windows at the front of the ship that gave way to a multi-storey observation lounge. On June 23, Costa Victoria arrived in Piombino, Italy for scrapping after being purchased by Genova Trasporti Marittimi. Last month it was confirmed that Costa Victoria would be towed to Turkey to begin the scrapping process.

Empress of the Seas (1990)

Empress of the Seas

Empress of the Seas 

Launched in 1990 as Nordic Empress, the ship was the first modern vessel built expressly for the three-and-four-day cruise market. Undergoing a name change to Empress of the Seas in order to conform with the rest of the fleet, the ship stayed with Royal Caribbean until 2008, when it was transferred to Spanish subsidiary Pullmantur.

Empress of the Seas came back into the fold, however, in 2016 in order to inaugurate Royal Caribbean‘s first sailings to Cuba. The ship was refitted with new features and given a stem-to-stern makeover.

Empress of the Seas was special because of her size, and her abundance of quiet, open spaces, both inside and out. A wraparound promenade deck gave way to a massive stern seating area, along with one of the best versions of the popular Bolero’s Lounge in the fleet. Quiet seating areas were located off the forward atrium, and the ship’s aft elevator lobby. Yet Empress of the Seas still had all the fun activities and diversions that are found on most of the line’s larger ships.

On December 16, Royal Caribbean announced Empress of the Seas had been sold to interests in Asia-Pacific. What happens to the ship after that remains to be seen.

Grand Celebration (1987)

Grand Celebration

Grand Celebration

Grand Celebration was launched in 1987 as Carnival Cruise Line‘s Celebration. The third in a trio of newbuilds for Carnival, Celebration was part of the Holiday Class that would later pave the way for the highly successful (and somewhat similarly-designed) Fantasy Class.

Celebration was preceded by Holiday and Jubilee. The latter was scrapped in 2017, but Holiday continued to sail on as Magellan for now-defunct Cruise and Maritime Voyages.

Celebration found a new lease on life as Grand Celebration, the lead vessels for Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, operating short two-night cruises to Freeport from West Palm Beach. It was sold at the end of last year, and sailed to India for scrapping

Horizon (1990)

Horizon

Horizon

Horizon was constructed in 1990 as the first of two nearly identical newbuilds for Celebrity Cruises. Though somewhat angular in appearance, the ship was noted for its superb interiors and unique reception area concept, which featured over-height ceilings and ran along the centerline of the ship.

Horizon was removed from the Celebrity Cruises fleet in 2005 and was passed around to various operators before landing with Pullmantur in 2017. Following the collapse of Pullmantur in June, the ship’s fate looked sealed as the entire Pullmantur fleet was sold for scrap.

Karnika (1990)

Karnika

Karnika

More familiar in its previous incarnations as Princess CruisesCrown Princess (1990) and P&O Australia’s Pacific Jewel, the vessel finally went to Zen Cruises in 2019, renamed Karnika for Jalesh Cruises, catering for the Indian cruise market, a short-lived proposition due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and was scrapped last November.

When Crown Princess debuted in 1990, it marked a significant development for the company along with its sister-ship Regal Princess (1991), which both had distinctive “domes” situated above their navigation bridges. Both were designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano. By 1995, they were eclipsed again by the introduction of Sun Princess and in 1998 by the huge Grand Princess. When withdrawn after just 12 years, Crown Princess operated as A’Rosa with AIDA, and later with P&O Australia as its Pacific Jewel.

Magellan (1985)

Magellan

Magellan

Magellan, finally operating with CMV, began life in 1985 as Carnival Cruise Line’s Holiday.  As the lead ship of the three-vessel strong Holiday class, it paved the way for Carnival‘s larger Fantasy Class that debuted in 1990, much of which was derived from the design for Holiday.

The ship had a long career with Carnival, serving until 2009. After a four-year stint with Iberocruceros, it was purchased by Cruise & Maritime Voyages in 2015 and renamed Magellan.

When CMV collapsed last summer, the ship was bought at auction by ferry operator Seajets, who actually sold it on to scrapping interests in India.

Marco Polo (1965)

Marco Polo

Marco Polo

A remarkably long-serving vessel, this Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ ship was regarded as probably the last of the “grand dame” ocean liners transferred into cruise service. 

The ship started life as Aleksandr Pushkin for the former Soviet Union’s Baltic Sea Shipping Company. The ship was a throwback to another era, offering taps for hot, cold and sea water in cabins; something not featured for many years on contemporary new builds. Its ice-strengthened hull and generous public spaces made it a versatile cruise vessel.

After being rebuilt in the early 1990’s and renamed Marco Polo, it changed operators several times over the next three decades, including service with Orient Line until 2008, and then as part of Transocean Tours fleet. Cruise & Maritime Voyages acquired the ship in 2010, and when the company collapsed in the summer of 2020, Marco Polo was sold for scrap and arrived to be broken up in India this January.

Majesty of the Seas (1992)

Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the Seas

The last of Royal Caribbean‘s Sovereign Class of ships still in service, Majesty of the Seas was one of the “big three” Royal Caribbean distinctively designed vessels introduced in the early 1990’s with  swept-back bows and attractively-tiered decks. They were later to provide direct inspiration for the line’s Vision Class ships that succeeded them.

Prior to the COVID-19 service suspension, the ship had found a home in New Orleans, operating weeklong cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean. Sold to undisclosed interests in Asia-Pacific, Majesty’s future remains uncertain.

Marella Celebration (1984)

Marella Celebration

Marella Celebration

Originally built as Holland America Line‘s Noordam before being transferred to Thomson/Marella Cruises in 2005, this popular ship had old-world charm, including open public areas and broad teak decks. TUI Group, which have latterly owned Marella, withdrew it last year and it is now being reported as being sold for scrap. 

Marella Dream (1986)

Marella Dream

Marella Dream

Marella Dream began life in 1986 as Homeric, the last new ship constructed for Home Lines, which with Holland America Line in 1988, and it became Westerdam. Extensively refitted and stretched, and the ship carried on with the line until 2002, frequently spending its summers in Alaska on sailings out of Vancouver and winters in the Caribbean.

It also starred in the 1997 comedy film Out to Sea, starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon as reluctant dance hosts. 

Retired from the Holland America fleet in 2002, Westerdam went on to serve a short stint with Costa Cruises as Costa Europa before joining the Thomson/Marella family in 2010, first as Thomson Dream, and then Marella Dream from 2017.

It was officially withdrawn from service last Autumn, and seems definitely set for scrapping.

Monarch (1991)

Monarch

Monarch

Monarch began life as Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas in 1991 before being transferred to Spanish subsidiary Pullmantur in 2013. The second of Royal Caribbean‘s three-ship Sovereign class, Monarch was, for a time, one of the most trendsetting ships on the seas.

Pullmantur filed for bankruptcy protection in June as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Monarch, together with older sister Sovereign, were reportedly stripped of their interior fittings and artwork in Genoa. In late July, the ship arrived at the breakers in Aliaga and will be scraped alongside Sovereign.

Ocean Dream (1982)

Ocean Dream

Ocean Dream

Launched in 1982 as Tropicale, this vessel was Carnival’s “test ship”: the first newbuild to be created for the company, and the ship that would pattern the basic design and layout for every one launched for the line over the next decade and a half.

Tropicale was in service with Carnival until 2000, when it was transferred to Costa Cruises as Costa Tropicale. The ship then had short stints with P&O Australia as Pacific Star and with Spanish operator Pullmantur as Ocean Dream before being transferred, but not renamed, to Japanese operator Peace Boat in 2012. It was reported as scrapped at the end of 2020.

Pacific Dawn (1991)

Pacific Dawn

Pacific Dawn

Pacific Dawn began life as Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess, designed by famed architect Renzo Piano, like sister ship Crown Princess (see Karnika, above). They were claimed to be among the most-photographed cruise ships in the world, thanks to their distinctive white “domes”, meant to resemble the appearance of a dolphin in the water. They were distinctive for offering luxurious interior spaces and a prolific number of balcony staterooms but less generous deck space for glacier viewing and wildlife watching on the trips to Alaska. Superseded by the even more exotic Princess Cruises Sun Class ships, and further still with the 1998 introduction of Grand Princess, Regal Princess left the fleet in 2007 to become P&O Australia‘s Pacific Dawn, and had been scheduled to go to Cruise & Maritime Voyages prior to that company’s collapse last summer. Instead, it was sold to an investment firm with the intention of becoming a floating accommodation hotel anchored off Panama. It was actually sold for scrap last December.

Sovereign (1988)

Sovereign

Sovereign

Sovereign was built in 1988 as Royal Caribbean‘s Sovereign of the Seas. The largest new purpose-built cruise ship at the time, Sovereign ushered in the concept of the multi-story atrium flanked with glass elevators that would become a staple of the Royal Caribbean fleet for decades.

Sovereign of the Seas was transferred to Pullmantur in November of 2008 and embarked on its first voyage for the line in the spring of 2009. Like Monarch, it was stripped of all valuable fittings in Genoa in June 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Scrapping began in August, with the ship’s bow and navigation bridge already gone by the end of the month.

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