Historic 1980s Cruise Ship Latest Retired Due to COVID-19 Impact

older cruise ships retired due to the pandemic
Marella Dream docked in the Netherlands in 2019 - photo by Dickelbers (Wikicommons CC BY-SA)

Published Oct 1, 2020 2:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

Another historic 1980s-vintage cruise ship, the Marella Dream, is being retired early due to the impact of COVID-19 on the cruise and travel industries. She joins a growing list of older cruise ships that are being retired as the companies seek to pare back their fleets anticipating a slow rebuilding of travel-related businesses.

Marella Cruises, a cruise brand marketed in the UK and owned by the German TUI Group, announced today that the cruise ship would be retired from the company’s fleet. Built in 1986 as the Homeric, she was a historic ship as she was the first cruise ship built by the German shipyard Meyer Werft. Meyer aggressively competed for the contract to build the ship, including a very rapid construction schedule. Meyer used this ship as their starting point to develop into one of the leading cruise ship builders.

Entering service in 1986, she would also become the last cruise ship for a company called Home Lines that traced its origins to post-World War II passenger shipping. Holland America Line acquired and rebuilt the ship and it later sailed for Costa Cruises before joining Marella, which was then known as Thomson Cruises. The Marella Dream has been laid up in Croatia during the pandemic, but due to her age and size, 54,700 gross tons, and lack of modern amenities including balcony cabins, industry observers speculate she will be sold for scrap.

“With the ongoing travel restrictions for UK cruise lines still in place, we’ve taken the difficult decision to reshape our cruise programme for the upcoming seasons. That means an early retirement for Marella Dream after ten years of service and the redeployment of Marella Discovery from the US to Europe,” said Chris Hackney, Managing Director of Marella Cruises. 

The Marella Dream is the second 1980s-vintage cruise ship that the company has retired since the start of the pandemic. In April 2020, Marella announced that it was accelerating the retirement of the 1984-built Marella Celebration. That ship was sold during the summer and is laid up in Greece with the belief that she is destined for the scrapyards in Turkey. Both ships had their careers cut short by the pandemic. In January 2020, Marella said that it anticipated these two ships would continue in service for up to five more years before their retirement.

Marketed in the UK, Marella continues to adjust its restart plan based on the UK government’s travel restrictions. Marella had announced a phased resumption of service which would have seen the Marella Dream return to cruising in the summer of 2021 in the Mediterranean. Those cruises were reassigned to another ship of the fleet and Marella canceled sailings planned for the Marella Dream after October 2021. The company currently is targeting a resumption of service for its first ship on November 16 sailing round trip from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

The decision to retire the cruise ships comes as Marella’s parent company, the TUI Group, is working to recapitalize and reshape itself going forward. Bloomberg is reporting today that TUI is looking to raise as much as $1.8 billion through an offering along with the sale of assets. In July, TUI sold Hapag-Lloyd Cruises to a joint venture with the Royal Caribbean Group and it is believed that they are negotiating a similar sale for Marella Cruises. TUI also plans to sell hotels and is deferring the delivery of airplanes that it had ordered for its travel businesses.