Cruise

What happens to cruise ships when they retire?

Laine Fullerton

Most ships have an official lifespan of 30 years, which leaves us pondering, where exactly do cruise ships end up after they retire?

Buoy does this topic make us sad, but it is aboat time we find out what actually happens.

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Awful puns aside, while it is a sad sight to see a cruise no longer doing what it was designed to do, it is not actually all bad news.

Typically there are three options that determine the fate of an old cruise ship.

Most often they are actually offloaded to a less-luxurious cruise line within the same company, or transported to a different part of the globe with smaller market share.

Alternatively, they are sold on the second-hand market to fledgling or budget cruise lines that are not interested in investing in new tonnage.

The Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line owns just two ships, one from Carnival built in 1987 and another built for Costa Cruises in 1991.

Because a majority of the cruise itineraries are just a short two-nights, passengers are less likely to be concerned about cabin decor, but instead look favourably towards the 10 free drinks included on these cruises.

The retro look that characterises most middle-aged cruises built during the cruise boom in the 1990s is becoming increasingly adaptable, particularly for cruise lines offering short trips.

Even 18-year old Carnival Victory continues to contribute a significant portion of revenue to the cruise industry from three and four-day cruise trips.

Another option is, of course, a nicely minted renovation.

According to Bloomberg, the annual ‘Cruise Lines Outlook’ from UBS estimates that by 2020, at least 12 per cent of global capacity will be 25 years old or older, and nearly five per cent will be pushing 30.

Carnival Cruises is just one of the companies that has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in order to revive their older cruise ships, particularly since nine of their 26 ships are over 20 years old.

Group chief executive officer for Carnival Corporations’ Holland America Group and Carnival UK, Stein Kruse, told Bloomberg older ships often have a loyal following and low book value.

“Some of the older ships in our brands are incredibly popular. They are well-kept, well-maintained, and they go on exciting itineraries”

And who could forget the extreme renovation when Silversea Cruises literally split 9-year-old Silver Spirit down the middle in March, in order to accommodate for an expanded pool area and more dining options.

Furthermore, Norwegian Cruise Line has invested $400 million to refurbish nine of its 16 vessels.

As per Bloomberg, Andy Stuart CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line said: “You get to that middle-aged period in a 30-year life, and the ships need a substantial investment. That’s exactly what we’ve done.”

“We don’t see any reason to retire ships,” he added.

And perhaps the older cruise ships who can no longer set sail will hopefully have the long-awaited happy ending like Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2).

One of the most famous cruise ships, 50-year-old QE2, which was part of the Cunard Line and sailed around the world 25 times hosting more than 2.5 million guests, has finally found a new home as a floating hotel in Dubai.

And the ships who don’t fall into the above categories will most likely end up being torn to scraps, or even somewhat sadder, left to wither away.

But fortunately this fate is becoming considerably less heard of, and a future without a cruise graveyard is something we can definitely get behind.

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