Carnival Corp. Castoffs Find New Lives Cruising in Greece and China

cruise ships
Former Costa cruise ship is becoming the Goddess of the Night for Greek Island cruises (Neonyx Cruises)

Published May 31, 2024 5:09 PM by The Maritime Executive


Two of the cruise ships retired by Carnival Corporation brands during the pandemic are set to relaunch in the coming weeks for their new owners in Greece and China. The ships, which are both over 20 years old, are being brought back to life after having been idle since 2020 and introducing new elements to the cruise market.

Greek shipping company Seajets led by Marios Iliopoulos emerged as a speculative buyer of the Carnival Cruise ships in 2020 and 2023 as the company looked to accelerate the sale of older, less profitable vessels from its brands. Iliopoulos acquired eight cruise ships from Carnival and the bankrupt UK-based firm Cruise & Maritime Voyages before selling two for scrap (ex. Columbus and Magellan) and two others to other operators, Celeystal Cruises and the French startup Compagnie Française De Croisières.

Now it has decided to launch a party cruise company for the Greek Islands called Neonyx Cruises reactivating another of the laid-up cruise ships. They say that the operation will be unlike other cruises as it combines a music festival with cultural experiences and scenery. It is an adult-only cruise that will feature seven to ten international music DJs along with dancers and acrobats entertaining on each cruise. They will also have a casino, wellness, sports, and shopping.

The party atmosphere is highlighted by the marketing that says the music performances will run from sunset to sunrise. They plan to run the main buffet restaurant serving food till 4:30 in the morning.

The operation is scheduled to start July 15 with the recently overhauled former Costa Magica, the largest of the cruise ships Iliopoulos acquired. She is being renamed Goddess of the Night. Built by Fincantieri with work started in 2002, the ship entered service in 2004 for Costa Cruises. She is 102,784 gross tons with accommodations for up to 3,470 passengers and just over 1,000 crew. Before the pandemic, Carnival Corporation said she would be transferred to Carnival Cruise Line as both brands share a common design platform.

The Greek cruises will be three and four nights offering passengers the option of starting from Piraeus or Mykonos, Greece, or Cesme, Turkey. She will also make a port call in Santorini, Greece on Wednesdays. 

Neonyx says this will be the first ship of its fleet. Seajets also owns the former Oceania of P&O, Majesty of the Seas from Royal Caribbean, and the former Veendam from Holland America, but it is unclear if they are planning to reactivate any of those ships.


Former AIDA cruise ship is relaunching in China as the Blue Dream Melody (COSCO)


In China, COSCO Heavy Industry in Zhoushan completed the overhaul of the former AIDAVita (42,300 gross tons) and redelivered the ship to her new operator Blue Dream Cruises. They are highlighting that it was the largest of the 10 cruise ship repair and modification projects undertaken by the shipyard. 

The ship arrived in China in mid-March after having been in layup in Estonia since the pandemic. Built in 2002, she sailed for AIDA but was sold first in 2022 and again this year. Blue Star was started with another smaller cruise ship for the Chinese market and was the first to start service after the pandemic. Initially, they said they would be running both ships, but also discussed relaunching the operation with a healthy lifestyle focus.

The overhaul included special inspections for the ship and repairs as well as the installation of shore power connections. They replaced flooring throughout the ship, renovated 35 staterooms, refurbished many areas, and renovated the theater. They also added a new CCTV system and replaced the kitchen equipment. Renamed Blue Dream Melody, they also added musical-themed artwork to the hull replacing AIDA’s signature design on the hulls with the lips and eye inspired by the famous opera.

The Chinese cruise line is scheduled to start the new ship’s operations on June 10. She is offering cruises to Japan and Korea from Shanghai ranging between 5, 8, 11, and 12 nights as well as the option of extending trips to 33 days or longer. The refurbished ship will have accommodations for 1,580 passengers.

The launch of the new cruise operations comes as the industry continues to report strong overall growth. With demand high, new operators seek an opportunity to enter the market.