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MOL to Launch Cruise Line with Ship from Carnival’s Seabourn Cruise Line

Seabourn cruise ship
MOL will launch its new international cruise operation with the former Seabourn Odyssey (Seabourn file photo)

Published Oct 17, 2023 3:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, best known for commercial shipping and its fleet of bulkers, is launching a new international cruise line brand in 2024 as part of its strategy to diversify its operations. To be known as Mitsui Ocean Cruises, the new brand will start with the Seabourn Odyssey, which the company will take over in August 2024 from Carnival Corporation’s Seabourn Cruise Line.

The new brand is scheduled to start operations in December 2024 with the 32,477 gross ton cruise ship, which will be renamed Mitsui Ocean Fuji. The name was selected both in recognition of MOL’s operations in the cruise market since the 1990s with the Fuji Maru, and inspired by Mt. Fuji, one of the most iconic symbols of Japan.

MOL says the new operation will combine high-quality Japanese hospitality with European and American luxury qualities. In 2025, they plan to begin marketing the cruise ship internationally, which will be the first time in many years the Japanese have been in the international cruise market. While both MOL and NYK operate a cruise ship, they are marketed only in Japan. NYK started Crystal Cruises in the 1990s, which was an international cruise line headquartered in the United States, but they sold the company in 2015 to Genting Hong Kong. MOL said last year as part of its efforts to expand the company, it would enter the international cruise market. They report the new brand and ship will operate in conjunction with the Nippon Maru.

The first programs starting in December 2024 will be 2- and 3-night cruises to introduce the new luxury cruise product to the Japanese market. On April 12, 2025, the Mitsui Ocean Fuji will depart on what MOL calls a classic round-the-world cruise. Sailing from Yokohama, the trip will last 100 days and stop at 16 countries and 24 ports. The ship will return to Japan on July 20, 2025, and MOL says it will also offer cruises to seasonal favorite ports of call.

MOL acquired the cruise ship which was built in 2009 from Carnival Corporation in March 2023 but chartered it back to Seabourn to complete its published cruises through August 22, 2024. With a capacity of 458 passengers, it is a luxury cruise ship offering all-suite accommodations. It will introduce new amenities to the Japanese market, including the first deployable marina from a cruise ship. They also plan to refit the ship to make it better suited to the Japanese culture.

The company announced in November 2022 that MOL’s board of directors approved a plan to build two new 35,000 gross ton cruise ships. They said those ships would also be part of the effort to participate in the growth in cruise demand both in the domestic and international markets. Construction details have not been announced but they said they would target introducing the first newly built cruise ship in around 2027.

Work also recently began in Germany on NYK’s new cruise ship which will be named Asuka III. The ship was ordered in 2021 from Meyer Werft and the first steel cut took place on September 25 in Papenburg, Germany. The new ship will be approximately 754 feet in length and 52,200 gross tons. She will accommodate 744 passengers and is due for delivery in 2025, but it is believed unlike MOL, that NYK will continue to market the ship only in Japan.