Cruise Industry

Damage to cruise industry from coronavirus captured in a single picture

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, forcing governments to impose lockdowns around the world and bringing entire industries to a halt, it was expected that the cruise industry was going to take a huge hit.

Sovereign, Monarch and Carnival Fantasy were joined by Carnival Inspiration after this picture was taken (see instagram post below)

RELATED: Carnival Fantasy joins Pullmantur ships Monarch and Sovereign for scrapping

RELATED: Pullmantur’s Monarch and Sovereign sister ships arrive in Izmir for scrapping

This past week, the physical impact of the loss of revenue for the world’s major cruise lines was laid bare when, one after the other, four large cruise ships were run aground in Izmir, Turkey for scrapping.

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Carnival Inspiration was landed in Aliaga, Turkey this morning for scrapping, marking the end of her 24 years of service. They wedged her between Pulmantur Sovereign and Carnival Fantasy. Hard to believe all four of these ladies could have been ready for passenger service just 4 weeks ago. This photo has been shared several places and is difficult to determine the original poster. <Update> photo courtesy of @algutours #carnivalcruise #carnivalinspiration #carnivalfantasy #carnivalfantasycruise #carnivalinspirationcruise #carnivalcruisingducks #shipbreaking #shipbreakingyard #carnivalfantasy #carnival #cruisevacation #ghostship #ghostships #aliagashipbreakingyard #covid19 #covid_19 #pullmantursovereign #pullmanturmonarch #sovereignoftheseas #monarchoftheseas

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All four of the ships are more than 30 years old, almost vintage by modern standards, with their boat decks up top and, in the case of Sovereign and Monarch, their classic lines with long bows and rounded stern.

Admittedly, all four had just a few years of service left, but that they should all be scrapped in such quick succession would have been inconceivable just a few months ago. This hasn’t happened since the 2000s, when SOLAS 2010 out an end to the careers of several dozen former ocean liners-turned cruise ships.

And in the case of Sovereign, it’s sad to see such a revolutionary ship retire with such little fanfare.

Sovereign, then called Sovereign of the Seas, was the world’s first mega cruise ship, the largest the world had ever seen when she was launched in 1988. She was a revelation, and ushered in a new era in cruising.

Majesty of the Seas is the final Sovereign-class cruise ship still in service with Royal Caribbean.

Gene Sloan sums up the various ways in which she was a record-breaking ship over at The Points Guy: “Among notable features, Sovereign offered a five-deck Centrum with glass elevators, sweeping staircases and fountains in marble pools — a revolutionary concept at the time. It also had a theater with more than 1,000 seats, a separate live music venue, a nightclub, a casino with 171 slot machines plus table games, and multiple restaurants, bars and lounges.”

These were revolutionary features for a cruise ship in the 1980s, a time when most cruise vessels were converted ocean liners, while casinos, theatres and restaurants had obviously been offered before, it had never been done on this scale. She was the original Oasis-class of her day.

“Sovereign was proof that bigger ships full of lots of amenities — vessels where you could say “the ship is the destination” just as much as ports — could be a hit. It was a huge success, and it set in motion the development of ever-larger, ever-more-amenity-filled ships,” writes Sloan.

The ships have already begun to be broken up for scrapping.

RELATED: Carnival Corp accelerates fleet sell-off, 13 ships to be retired representing 9% of capacity

RELATED: Royal Caribbean delays newbuilds, considers ship sales amid $1.6 billion 2nd quarter loss

And yet now Sovereign and Monarch (formerly Monarch of the Seas) both lie on a beach being cut up for scrap. It was a fate that would ultimately have awaited both sister ships, but not in the same year, and certainly not in the same week, if it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic forced Royal Caribbean-owned Pullmantur to declare bankruptcy, leaving both ships without a home in a second-hand market where demand in minimal, especially for such old vessels.

The collapse of Pullmantur was a shock for the cruise industry, but then Cruise & Maritime Voyages folded, leaving its fleet in limbo, and Carnival Cruise Line confirmed rumours that it was scrapping two of its Fantasy-class cruise ships, and within just a few days of Sovereign and Monarch arriving in Izmir, Fantasy of the Seas, and then Carnival Inspiration, were both beached side-by-side as well.

With more than a dozen cruise ships adrift without an owner in a massively depressed second-hand market, these four old dames of the cruise industry are unlikely to be the last spate of cruise ships to be sold for scrap this year.

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