Reeling from Covid-19 and looking to cut costs, the cruise industry this year said it will bid farewell to a number of ships, and more may yet be removed before cruising from U.S. ports restarts.
The majority, so far, are from Carnival Corp. brands, which committed this summer to removing 13 ships from its nine brands before the end of the year. It has already made good by selling two of the oldest Carnival Cruise Line Fantasy-class vessels, the Fantasy and the Inspiration; Holland America Line’s Rotterdam, Veendam, Amsterdam and Maasdam; plus two Costa Cruises ships and one P&O Cruises vessel.
Pullmantur, the Spanish brand half owned by Royal Caribbean Group, sold off its three ships: The Monarch and the Sovereign were built for Royal Caribbean International as the Sovereign of the Seas and the Monarch of the Seas; the Horizon, meanwhile, originally sailed for Celebrity Cruises.
Most of these ships will be scrapped, although a few will be given a new life; the Amsterdam and Rotterdam, for example, will sail for Fred. Olsen, replacing its older Black Watch and Boudicca.
These vessels have long been among their brands’ oldest tonnage, often operating lower-cost itineraries in less mature cruise markets.
But at one point, they were the most talked-about, the largest, the most advanced ships at sea.
Travel Weekly talked to former and current executives, travel advisors and marketers about what made these ships so special in their time.
Bob Dickinson, former CEO, Carnival Cruise Line
I believe history will show the Fantasy class is the most successful line of ships that the cruise industry has ever seen.
By the time Sensation [the third Fantasy-class ship] came out in 1993, we’d doubled the size of our fleet, which we doubled again in very short order. The Fantasy class solidified and enhanced our position as the largest and most popular cruise line in the world. Because of the Fantasy class, we carried more passengers than the next two cruise lines put together.
Having eight ships in one class gave us such enormous economies of scale that the payback on the ships was incredibly quick, which allowed us to expand as fast as we did. It [enabled us] to operate from a variety of different ports. We could expand from what was traditionally Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral into making the drive market more important in Mobile, Ala.; New Orleans; Charleston, S.C.; the West Coast. We realized that if you can tap into the drive market, you’ve reduced two expenses of cruising: the cost of getting there and the time. We made cruising easier, more accessible and less of an expenditure. That allowed us to grow the market against hotels and resorts.
We started with “entertainment architecture,” I’ll call it, with the Tropicale, with Joe Farcus, our interior designer. We enhanced that with the Holiday, Jubilee and Celebration. But the Fantasy-class ships were significantly larger, by 50%, so it gave Joe a greater artistic palate to work his magic. The bones of the ships were the same, but the look and feel on each ship was dramatically different. What we tried to do then and continue to do now is be the “fun ships.” So it was fun architecture. We basically stole the idea from Disney. The architecture in each resort is themed, whimsical, fun, lighthearted, aspirational — and every room is interesting and different. Sort of the opposite of the big brand hotels that are pretty cookie-cutter. It made it fascinating to go into this dining room versus that dining room, this bar versus another one, because every one was a treat for the eyes.
Joe did an extraordinary job and helped take cruising from just being a sort of plain vanilla hotel-at-sea to an attraction at sea. It added another dimension to it.
Celebrity Cruises CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo
It is really interesting to reflect back and remember how very modern the Celebrity Horizon was in her day. Horizon’s intimate and sophisticated elegance inspired our modern-luxury brand identity that has carried through the years, and we continue to challenge ourselves to bring the idea of new, contemporary luxury to life with each new ship build.
She was so well-designed that, when we did her first major retrofit, her bones were so good that it became more of a decor project than anything else. Art was a deep passion for her then-owners, the Chandris family, and the art collection onboard represented numerous young, emerging artists who also embodied the modern feel. This passion for art and design also remains in our DNA — and is even more integral to today’s Celebrity Cruises experience. I don’t know of any other cruise line that cares as much about the guest experience through the lens of design as Celebrity does.
Rod McLeod, former chief marketing officer at Royal Caribbean International
The Sovereign of the Seas was going to be a 50,000-ton ship. Still a good size in those days. But as a result of all the things we wanted in it, it got bigger.
When we looked at the final design, we realized it was going to be the largest ship in the world. That wasn’t our objective. We wanted to have the kids and teen center, a larger Ship Shape fitness center, it had an extra lounge. We knew we’d have 2,000 people onboard, and everybody would not want to do the same thing at the same time. We could see traditional dining was beginning to break down in terms of consumer preference. They wanted more flexibility. We created the first really large Windjammer Cafe buffet.
We ended up with the largest ship in the world, and we wanted to be careful about that. My reaction was, “let’s not talk about that too much.” The research showed that a cruise ship is like Noah’s Ark: You fill it two by two. These are largely couples going on their vacation, and the idea of going on their vacation with 2,000 other people might not be something they are going to want.
The media started talking about it being a 73,000-ton ship and how big it was. And it was so well-received as the largest ship in the world that we made Monarch the largest and the Majesty the largest ship after that. All you need is an extra ton of cubic volume. We continued doing that for years with new ships.
The Sovereign was the first Royal ship to carry the “of the Seas” designation. The Sovereign of the Seas was a British warship and was the fiercest battleship on the seas dating back to the 1800s. It was one of the owner’s favorite ships, and he loved the name. But we had to figure out how to turn the name of a warship into a cruise ship, and [we discovered] it was easy to find names that went with “of the Seas.” And that’s where it came from. We liked it so much that the Sovereign, the Monarch and Majesty set the Royal Caribbean naming convention in place.
Those ships lived a good life. From a financial standpoint, cruise ships are built with the view that they’d have around 25 years of utility. They’ve exceeded that. When you see the ship will be ripped apart someplace in Turkey, it almost sounds savage, but the memories are still there, and it’s the natural order of things.
They truly set Royal Caribbean up for the success that it enjoys today. The Sovereign, Monarch and Majesty helped to change the perception of the cruise vacation. They were a break with the past, modern ships built on a different model and a rethinking of the cruise experience. The industry began to think of itself in a very different way. Out of that came 5,000-passenger ships and rock climbing walls, golf courses, ice skating rinks, bumper cars, roller-coasters, you name it. The Sovereign, Monarch and Majesty helped lay the foundation of what we are seeing today.
Steve Lincoln, owner of Lincoln Travel, a Nexion agency, and a travel advisor for 38 years. He has been on 60 cruises, including two Holland America Line Rotterdams.
The Veendam and Maasdam were the beginning of an evolution for Holland America Line. The name Holland America has always been synonymous with luxury, unique itineraries and five-star service. While they are still known for these qualities, with the introduction of these ships, they could compete with mass-market lines. The introduction of the S-class ships allowed Holland America to blend its level of luxury and service with contemporary design that included features other lines were finding great success with. A multistory atrium, show lounge and dining venues are now commonplace in the industry, but at the time they added a new dimension to cruising.
The S-class ships were nearly identical to one another, with the exception of decor. The R-class Rotterdam and Amsterdam were each unique and, in my opinion, specifically designed for longer cruises. They introduced alternative dining venues, a concierge lounge and internet cafes — now fairly standard and necessary amenities for longer voyages.
The larger size of those ships allowed more space for additional venues onboard. There is still a sector of clients that yearn for a smaller ship. What was considered a behemoth ship in the late ’80s, early ’90s is considered very intimate by today’s standard.
They became incredibly popular because they were so contemporary. Although it was a little slow to catch on at first, passengers really enjoyed “as you wish dining” versus the traditional dining times. The newbuilds allowed for separate levels in the main dining room in order to accommodate passenger preferences.
My clients especially loved the retractable glass roof over the pool area as it allowed for four-season use.
One night when we were on the Veendam, we went into the dining room, found our table and sat down and started eating the bread and drinking the water. After a few minutes I looked at my wife and kids and asked if anyone else noticed that no one in this dining room looked even vaguely familiar. We realized we had gone into the wrong dining room. They were absolutely identical. We laughed the whole night over that. Thank goodness our very temporary waiter didn’t make a big deal over it. I was so embarrassed.
Andy Newman, president of Newman Public Relations
I have photographed every new Carnival Cruise Line ship since the Fantasy debuted in 1990, except for last year’s Panorama. The Fantasy class were the first ships of the modern era. The interiors were designed by Joe Farcus, and a lot of the rooms were way out there. You either loved them or you didn’t — there was nothing in between.
What I always remember about the Fantasy was the Cats Lounge. The idea of these giant Campbell’s soup cans and sitting in a tuna can — it was so imaginative. It was incredible. The ships were, for their time, absolutely innovative.
Peter Knego’s impressions from 40 years of cataloguing cruise ships
Peter Knego began photographing cruise ships when, on his way home from visiting the Queen Mary in Los Angeles harbor, he took a picture of the circa-1972 P&O ship the Spirit of London.
He was 13 years old.
Over the next four-plus decades, much of it working as a journalist and historian, he has sailed on more than 300 cruises as he travels the world documenting cruise ships and ocean liners. Along the way, he has amassed hundreds of thousands of images and over a thousand hours of video.
Included in his inventory are ships now headed for the scrapyard, and he shared his memories of some of these ships with Travel Weekly:
I remember visiting Sovereign of the Seas for the first time at Miami in 1992 and being overwhelmed by how the ship towered over the others in port. With her Centrum, massive Viking Crown and vast deck spaces, she really was state of the art and forward thinking. It would take two full visits just to cover all of the ship’s public spaces. Now, of course, at 73,000 gross tons, the Sovereign is considered merely midsize.
Carnival’s Fantasy was another ship that made a strong and not exactly positive first impression, mainly for her outlandish color schemes, neon and over-the-top Joe Farcus decor. Eventually, I would come to appreciate the Fantasy and her sisters, as they each had such a unique personality and vibe. I actually prefer their Joe Farcus “concept” decor to today’s Carnival ships, which are certainly pleasant but much more generic in style.
I’ll miss knowing that the Black Watch and Boudicca are still plying the seven seas. They were among the first ships I ever visited, way back in 1974 and 1975, when they were sailing from San Francisco to Alaska as the Royal Viking Star and Royal Viking Sky, respectively. They were the ultimate modern beauties, with their long, sleek bows; varnished wooden decks; and Scandinavian artworks and furnishing.