California-based cruise operator, Princess Cruises, has announced the sale of two of its ships, Sun Princess and Sea Princess, to undisclosed buyers.
Both vessels had recently been based in Australia and attracted a significant number of Australian and New Zealand holiday makers.
Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, said: “Sun Princess and Sea Princess contributed to significant growth in Australian cruising. Both ships defined the premium cruise experience with Australians and New Zealanders spending close to 14 million nights aboard these ships.
“While it is never easy to say goodbye to any ship in our fleet, this will allow us to deploy newer ships enhancing our offerings for Australia cruisers and focus on bringing into service exciting newbuilds like the upcoming delivery of Enchanted Princess.”
Sun Princess launched in 1995 with an inaugural voyage in the Caribbean and was one of the world's largest cruise ships at the time. The 2,000-guest Sun Princess also sailed in Alaska and the Panama Canal among other destinations, before being homeported in Australia in October 2007. She has plied Australian waters every summer season since then.
Built in 1998, Sea Princess, which could accommodate 2,000 passengers, became synonymous with World Cruises having completed six full world cruises since 2013. During her time based in Australia, Sea Princess travelled the equivalent of 35 times around the world. Prior to joining Sun Princess in Australia, Sea Princess sailed in Europe and Alaska as well as the Caribbean, including serving as a homeport ship in Barbados in the mid-to late-2000s.
The sale of the two ships and their imminent departure from Princess Cruises’ fleet means a raft of plans have now been cancelled including 55 cruises from Australia and 14 international sailings.
Princess Cruises said passengers booked on the ships would be notified and offered alternative cruises or full refunds.
The move comes as the brand’s parent company, Carnival Corporation – whose portfolio of global cruise lines includes Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Seabourn, P&O Cruises, Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises – plans to accelerate the removal of “less efficient ships” from its fleet as it seeks to cut costs in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
In July, Carnival Corporation’s Holland America brand announced that four of its 14 ships had been sold, while the company’s Carnival Cruise Line brand revealed that Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Fascination would not be returning to the water when cruising resumes.
Meanwhile Carnival Corporation’s Italian cruise line Costa Cruises has sold Costa neoRomantica (formerly Costa Romantica) to Greek and Med specialist Celestyal Cruises.
Sister brand P&O Cruises is also downsizing: the company’s UK arm has disposed of one of its vessels, Oceana, while Pacific Aria and Pacific Dawn have left its Australia brand.
The virus has hit the cruise industry hard. At the beginning of the outbreak, ships such as Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess were forced into quarantine when passengers tested positive for Covid-19.
Three months into the pandemic, more than 40,000 crew workers remained stranded at sea waiting to find out if they would be repatriated.
Other ships lie empty but are unable to dock as a result of restrictions – Canada, the Cayman Islands, Australia, New Zealand and Spain have all extended their cruise ship bans until later this year, while there’s a voluntary US sailing pause through October.
However there are some good signs even in the midst of a crisis. MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises have successfully resumed sailing in Europe and new Seabourn president, Josh Leibowitz, is certain the industry will recover.
Leibowitz told The Telegraph: “The earth is 71 per cent covered in water so we’re confident that ocean based travel will persevere. Look ahead to summer/fall next year. Put something in the books, have something to look forward to. Be confident. This is our generation’s challenge and we will get through it.”