French Start-up Buys Former Holland America Ship to Launch New Line
A group of French entrepreneurs has acquired one of the former Holland America Line cruise ships sold during the pandemic with plans to revive their effort for a cruise line marketed to France. The former Holland America Line Maasdam recently adopted the new name of Renaissance and Compagnie Française de Croisières (CFC) based in Marseille plans to announce in September its new cruises.
Reports indicate the CFC is being started up by partners Clément Mousset and Cédric Rivoire Perrochat. Both of the executives had been working with UK-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages with plans to launch the dedicated French cruise operation. CMV had marketed cruises starting in 2016 to France and in late 2019 announced plans for these executives to launch a French division of the company. They were to start cruising year-round in May 2021. CMV reported it would refit the cruise line’s vessel Astor and rename her Jules Verne. The plan, however, did not proceed due to the suspension of cruising in March 2020 and the financial collapse of CMV later that summer.
The executives are deferring details of their new effort until the September press conference. However, they are being linked to the sale of the former Holland America Maasdam, which has been laid up in Greece since the summer of 2020. Greek investors which also own Seajets a Greek ferry operator purchased a series of cruise ships mostly from Carnival Corporation as the company sought to accelerate the disposal of older ships during the pandemic-related industry pause. Maasdam was renamed Aegean Myth but remained idled while it was believed Seajets sought a buyer or long-term charter.
Built in 1993, the 55,500 gross ton cruise ship was the second in a new class of vessels built for Holland America Line by Fincantieri shortly after the line was acquired by Carnival. Accommodating 1,200 passengers, the cruise ship was a key part of Carnival’s expansion and modernization of Holland America. In later years, she had been replaced by larger cruise ships while Holland America placed the Maasdam on longer cruises and sending her to exotic destinations. She along with her sister ship Veendam and two other sisters that were operating for P&O Australia were all sold by Carnival in 2020. Three of the ships were acquired by Seajets which offered them for resale while the fourth ship was acquired by Portuguese investors and now operating on charter to Nico Cruises.
CFC’s efforts to launch a French-speaking cruise line are not the first recent effort at developing the market. Before CMV’s plans for France, Spain’s Pullmantur tried to develop the French cruise market. In 2008, working with Royal Caribbean which had acquired Pullmantur, they launched Croisières de France, a new cruise brand using the 1981-built Europa renamed Bleu de France. The cruise ship was sold in 2011 but they replaced her with other ships from Pullmantur before disbanding the brand in 2016.
Other cruise lines including Ponant are based in France but market their ships internationally. The new cruise line will be predominately marketed in France and the on-board operations will be French-speaking. Details on the first cruise and the itineraries are expected to be announced on September 6.