Middle East Cruise News

Former Royal Caribbean ship Empress of the Seas may cruise in Middle East

Royal Caribbean International has reportedly sold its venerable cruise liner Empress of the Seas to an Indian cruise start-up run by the same CEO as the now defunct Jalesh Cruises.

The Indian cruise start-up has reportedly purchased the Empress of the Seas and intends to use her on Indian cruise itineraries, possibly even as far afield as Dubai and the wider Middle East.

Jalesh Cruises operated the cruise ship Karnika, which cruised extensively in the Middle East.

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In a press release, Jurgen Bailom, was quoted as President and CEO of Cordelia Cruises. He previously led Jalesh Cruises, which featured several itineraries visiting the Middle East, and spent a full cruise season sailing roundtrip from Dubai in 2018.

Jalesh Cruises was forced to suspend cruise operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and declared bankruptcy in late 2020 as a result of the ongoing global suspension of cruises. It’s single cruise ship, Karnika, was sold for scrap.

In a statement, Bailom said that the Jalesh brand had been acquired by Waterways Leisure Tourism, which would continue to grow the Indian cruise market under a new cruise brand, Cordelia Cruises.

“With an individual capacity of 2,000 passengers, she has sailed many coastlines and high seas in her glorious past,” Bailom said of the Empress of the Seas purchase. “I look forward to your support in continuing the legacy of Jalesh Cruises.”

It’s unclear why Waterways Leisure Tourism decided to drop the Jalesh brand after acquiring it.

Empress of the Seas is reportedly the first of two ships the new cruise line plans to operate.

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According to a LinkedIn post by another company executive, Gunjan Khanna Sr., Cordelia Cruises will launch with Empress of the Seas, but is already in discussions to buy a second ship, a move that was considered by Jalesh just prior to the COVID-19 shutdown.

If the reports are confirmed, it would mean that Royal Caribbean has managed to sell the 30-year-old cruise ship into a non-competing market, which would mark a key strategic move for the company.

Royal Caribbean announced earlier this month that it was selling Empress of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas, two of its oldest cruise ships.

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

Majesty of the Seas, the larger of the two at 74,000-gross tons, was the last of the famous Sovereign-class cruise ships, one of the largest in the world and most advanced at the time of her launch in 1992.

When it was announced the ships would be leaving the fleet, Royal Caribbean said both would join a new operator in the Asia-Pacific region, it’s unclear if Cordelia’s planned second ship will be the Majesty of the Seas.

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