…they just end up getting refurbished, and pressed back into service on new routes. Fran Golden, from Porthole Cruise Magazine, explains how ships that were once unceremoniously scrapped are now enjoying healthy after-lives.
Twenty-year-old cruise ship Carnival Triumph is undergoing a US$200 million overhaul. Add-ons will include 115 cabins, a climbing park, and a dozen new bars and restaurants. It’s such an extensive refit that the owners are giving her a new name: Carnival Sunrise.
Florida-based cruise line Celebrity Cruises is also writing big cheques. It recently announced a $530 million budget to refurbish its entire nine-ship fleet, including four ships that date back to the early 2000s.
“New homes get remodelled when they are 20 years old, and hotels get remodelled,” says Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, head of Celebrity Cruises. “With the amount of money that we are investing in [older cruise ships], we certainly see a lot of runway in front of them.”
All this refurbishment is more than just cosmetic, however. There are sound business reasons for breathing new life into old cruise ships. As well as allowing cruise lines to experiment with new destinations and routes (since there are fewer berths to fill), older, smaller vessels can visit ports where today’s modern mega-ships simply can’t fit. “They can get in and out of Venice,” Lutoff-Perlo adds, “which a lot of our guests want to do.”
Cuba is another good example where the ports are much smaller. Since the loosening of the United States embargo, this island nation has been a hotbed for older (and smaller) tonnage, with cruise holidays commanding premium prices. Royal Caribbean International, for example, brought back their 28-year-old Empress of the Seas which had been sailing for Spanish subsidiary Pullmantur Cruises, to sail the Cuba route. Carnival Cruise Line has several Cuba-bound ships including the 25-year-old Carnival Sensation.
Older ships are also proving their worth on three- and four-day cruises from Florida to the Bahamas. Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, built in 2003, was recently updated to the tune of $120 million, and is exciting guests on short cruises from Miami with features such as an escape room and a virtual bungee trampoline experience. Carnival Cruise Line’s 18-year-old Carnival Victory attracts more than 300,000 passengers a year on its short Bahamas runs.