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Could P&O lose Adonia?



Adonia in the Baltic July 2014


Unlikely you might think, and on the face of it, so would I – but there has been a recent surprising development. NCL has bought Ocean Princess, one of the ‘R’ ships, from Carnival Corp. It will go with the three NCL already own via their newly-acquired subsidiary, Oceania Cruises. So what’s that got to do with Adonia?

You will recall (I’m sure) that Adonia is another of the eight ‘R’ ships, originally built between 1999 and 2001 for Renaissance Cruises. That line went broke not long after 9/11 – well-off Americans, Renaissance’s main customer base, stopped travelling for a while, especially away from the USA (Renaissance specialised in Mediterranean fly-cruises).

After lying idle for a couple of years the R ships began to find new homes, pretty much all over the place. A couple went to a new startup, Oceania Cruises, which was founded by several of the leading names from Renaissance – basically, they recreated Renaissance under a new name but with the same ships – and they subsequently acquired a third. Pullmantur, the Spanish line, acquired either one or two, and Royal Caribbean found them so attractive that they bought Pullmantur, took the R ships away from them (they were given a Celebrity ship in return) and founded Azamara Cruises to run the two R ships. The final three ended up with Princess. One eventually came to P&O and now sails as Adonia while Princess kept the last two as Ocean Princess and Pacific Princess. But now Ocean Princess has been sold to NCL/Oceania, and will start sailing for her new owners in early 2016.

(As a slight aside, I’m quite surprised about the purchase, to be honest. The R ships gained a good reputation when they were first built – they were small but very high quality with spacious cabins. However, they’re now quite old, and in 2011 and 2012 Oceania added two new-builds to their fleet, Marina and Riviera. These are just over twice the size of the R ships, although at 66,000 tons they still count as small-to-medium these days. They’re at least as luxurious as the original R ships with a capacity of about 1,250 passengers. Bear in mind that Oriana, only a bit bigger at about 69,000 tons, has a standard capacity of 1,750. Not only are Oceania’s new builds bigger than the R ships, they’ve used some of the space to add more luxury and facilities, and they’ve been a huge hit with Oceania’s customers. Indeed, there have been some comments to the effect that the original Oceania ships, the R ships, were perhaps cast a little into the shade by the new builds, and I was half expecting to learn that Oceania was  relinquishing them one by one. But no, the opposite has happened – NCL/Oceania have bought a fourth R ship. They must still be very well regarded, therefore.)

So what has this to do with Adonia? Well, the argument goes that there’s now an ever-stronger case for competition with Oceania while using the same hardware. Azamara is presently the nearest thing there is to that. Suppose Azamara came shopping for the remaining two R ships, Pacific Princess and Adonia? You could argue that Carnival Corporation would never sell a ship to a competitor, but that’s exactly what they’ve done with Ocean Princess – they’ve sold it to an NCL subsidiary – so I don’t think this can be ruled out. Alternatively, perhaps Carnival Corp will decide to start their own ‘Oceania’. They couldn’t really do that with just one ship, it would make more sense to start a two-ship operation, in which case both Pacific Princess and Adonia could be transferred to the new line.

This is all speculation, of course, and the likelihood is that Adonia will stay safely with P&O for years to come. But the sale of Ocean Princess from Princess to Oceania – which is actually a sale by Carnival Corp to NCL – is quite shocking; I’m not sure I can remember the last time a ship was sold by one industry major to another. In that context, it seems to me that all bets around the R ships are off.

2 Responses to “Could P&O lose Adonia?”

  1. Neil R says:

    Interesting post Tom, I saw the news about Ocean Princess the other day. I’ve also seen some speculation (don’t you love the rumour mill when something unexpected happens !) that RCL with just 2 ships in the Azamara sub-brand are likely to either (a) expand the brand,mostly logically by looking at the 2 remaining R class ships to join Az Journey and Az Quest, or (b) deciding they can’t compete against NCL/Oceania at all and ditch the Azamara sub-brand completely.

    It is also interesting to see that Carnival (as an overall entity as opposed to the brand) are slated to be getting rid of or rationalising older and smaller ships (CMV Magellan for example). Given that Oriana will be 20 next year (and looking every year of her age when we were on her last year) I wonder how longer her future can be assured?

    I definitely suspect Adonia is extremely at risk. Given the fleet wide move to Freedom Dining and various other moves, she is looking more and more anomalous in the fleet.

  2. Hi Tom, forget your e-mail so used this feature:

    You said: Malcolm: this is not about Sting (but it is about New York). I was watching the video of Blondie’s ‘Union City Blue’ track on YouTube, and starting at around 59′ there’s a shot across the Hudson from the Jersey shore (where the band were) to the Manhattan piers, and the sterns of three passenger ships clearly visible, have you got any idea what ships these might be? – I think the video dates from 1979.

    Here’s a link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Hvqgb1D6Opw

    Malcolm Oliver Says:

    November 22, 2014 at 13:30

    Hi Tom, The first ship is the Oceanic of Home Line, then the Rotterdam V and the Statendam for HAL. It indicates that that segment of the video was filmed on a Saturday as all 3 were on the 7-night cruise circuit out of New York to Bermuda and Nassau.

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