Days after its Carnival Corporation said it planned to sell more than 10 percent of its total cruise fleet, Holland America Line announced the sale of four of its ship, representing approximately a 20 percent reduction in the line’s capacity. The surprisingly deep cuts to one of Carnival’s oldest brands are the first details in what is expected to be rapid announcements of ship sales as the company seeks to lower its operating costs and emerge from the current service suspension as a learned and more efficient operator.
The sales comprise the four oldest and smallest ships in the Holland America fleet and ships that were mostly used on longer cruises. The loss of these ships will cause cancelations of some scheduled cruises, including Holland America’s annual around the world cruise for 2021, as well as cruises scheduled for Canada/New England, Mexico, the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, the Panama Canal, South America, and Hawaii. Other cruises will be operated by different ships in the Holland America fleet.
The first two sister ships, the Maasdam and Veendam, will be delivered to their new owner in August 2020. While the details of the buyer were not announced, the ships have been sold as a pair. Built in 1993 and 1996, these sister ships were the smallest in the Holland America fleet accommodating between 1,250 and 1,350 passengers.
In the fall, the Rotterdam, built in 1997 and the Amsterdam, built in 2000, will also be delivered to the Norwegian company Bonheur, which acquired the ships to operate for Fred. Olsen Cruises in the U.K.. Each ship carries approximately 1,400 passengers and was specially designed for longer cruises. The Amsterdam had been in the midst of the annual world cruise when global cruise operations were suspended due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Fred. Olsen expects to take delivery of these two ships in September and they will be renamed Bolette and Borealis as part of an optimization of the fleet. The newer vessels with a high yielding cabin mix and larger public spaces they said would enhance Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ earnings capabilities when operations resume. It is anticipated that two of Fred. Olsen’s older and smaller ships will be retired. Fred. Olsen currently has four cruise ships in the U.K. market.
“It’s always difficult to see any ship leave the fleet, especially those that have a long and storied history with our company,” said Stein Kruse, chief executive officer of Holland America Group and Carnival UK. “However, Holland America Line has a bright future ahead that includes recent Pinnacle-Class additions, with a third sister ship next year that will continue to maintain our overall capacity in the marketplace.”
Before the operational suspension, Holland America was operating fourteen cruise ships with a total capacity of over 25,000 berths. A new cruise ship currently under construction at Fincantieri was also scheduled for delivery in 2021. Its parent company, Carnival Corporation, recently said that it was delaying the delivery of many of its new ships but did not specifically announce a revised date for the delivery of this ship.
The four Holland America ships that are being sold are in addition to one ship each that Carnival had recently sold from its Costa Cruises and P&O brands. Briefing investors, Carnival’s CEO said last week that the company intends to accelerate the removal of ships from the fleet that were previously expected to be sold over the next few years.
Carnival said it has agreements to sell five ships and preliminary agreements to sell three additional ships, all of which were expected to be delivered to their new owners in the next 90 days. The company had previously also sold four ships that it was continuing to operate on bareboat charters and expected to deliver to the new owners in the next year bringing. In total, 13 ships will be leaving the global fleet which number 104 cruise ships at the beginning of 2019.
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