Carnival’s Chinese JV Sells Costa Cruise Ship to Margaritaville at Sea
China’s Adora Cruises, a new brand developed in a partnership between Carnival Corporation and China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) sold one of its two legacy cruise ships, the Costa Atlantica, as the brand begins operations and prepares for its two new Chinese-built cruise ships. The cruise ship has been laid up since the onset of the pandemic spending most of the past three years riding anchor off Cyprus before undergoing a dry docking in the spring and recently being docked at Cagliari, Italy.
Eagle-eyed observers who follow the cruise industry noticed in recent days that the vessel’s AIS signal switched identity to read MAS Islander. The cruise ship remains registered in the Bahamas and is still at dock with Carnival Corporation however confirmed that it has been sold. The AIS identity is a shortened version of Margaritaville at Sea Islander.
The Margaritaville cruise brand was launched in 2022 as a partnership between the former Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and the Margaritaville resort brand. When the cruise line was started, they transferred the former Classica built in 1991 from Bahamas Paradise and rechristened her Margaritaville at Sea Paradise. Executives from the operations had said they would look to expand the brand with additional cruise ships.
The Costa Atlantica was built in Finland in 2000 as the first of two ships on Carnival Corporation’s Spirit platform for Costa. The ship is 85,861 gross tons and 959 feet in length with accommodations for 2,680 passengers. The ship operated a range of itineraries for Costa primarily in Europe and the Caribbean before becoming closely associated with the Chinese market.
Former Costa Mediterranea returned to service on September 30 sailing from Tianjin, China (Tianjin Port Group)
When Carnival Corporation announced the new Chinese joint venture in 2018, they reported that the Costa Atlantica and her sister ship Costa Mediterranea would be sold to the new company. They were chartered back to Costa with the plan being that they would launch the Chinese cruise brand in 2020. Carnival Corporation reports in its regulatory filings that it recognized a $107 million gain on the sale of the ships in 2020 and sold its remaining interest in the entity owning the two ships in 2021 for $283 million.
The Costa Mediterranea was recently reconditioned and entered service on September 30 starting operations for the new Adora brand as the Mediterranea. Chinese officials celebrated her return to service as a major step for the domestic cruise market. They noted that China had officially declared its cruise market open on September 19 to restore the market which was growing rapidly before the pandemic.
The Mediterranea is sailing from Tianjin in Northern China. Her first cruise sailed for ports in Japan with a near capacity load of 2,500 passengers and she is currently scheduled to make 20 cruises from Tianjin to Japan and South Korea. Adora is scheduled to start operations with the Adora Magic City, China’s first larger domestically built cruise ship, in January 2024 from Shanghai, but no plans had been announced for the Atlantica. Construction is also underway in China on a second larger cruise ship for Adora.
The new Margaritaville cruise ship is significantly larger than the brand’s first ship, which is 53,000 gross tons and 723 feet in length. The Margaritaville at Sea Paradise has a capacity for 1,300 passengers and a maximum of 1,600 passengers. She is currently operating short cruises from the Port of Palm Beach, Florida to Freeport on Grand Bahama island, but observers note the new ship is likely too large for the Port of Palm Beach. The cruise line has not announced plans for the newly acquired cruise ship.