New French Cruise Line Will Launch in 2023 with Renaissance
Plans were unveiled in France for a new cruise line seeking to build on the emerging trends in the cruise industry. The second brand to emerge in the wake of the financial collapse during the pandemic of the UK’s Cruise & Maritime Voyages is stirring hopes for a broader revival in the secondhand cruise ship business and the reemerged of tailored produces. CMV’s management team launched Ambassador Cruise Line in the UK earlier this year.
Known as Compagnie Française de Croisières (CFC), the new line is being established by two industry veterans who had been working on developing a cruise line in conjunction with CMV before the pandemic. Clément Mousset and Cédric Rivoire-Perrochat, are the co-founders of CFC. Highlighting their combined experience of more than 25 years, they reported they have spent the past four years researching and testing the market to develop cruise concepts.
They confirmed the earlier reports that they have acquired the former Maasdam, built in 1993 by Fincantieri for Holland America Line. They noted that while it be 30 years old when they launch their operations that the vessel is in excellent condition and had received significant upgrades by Holland America in 2018, including environmental systems due to its previous operations in Alaska.
CFC took possession of the 55,575 gross ton cruise ship in August from Seajets that acquired the ship from Carnival Corporation in the summer of 2020. While she was renamed Aegean Myth the cruise ship has not operated since March 2020. Seajets reportedly finance the acquisition of the ship. She has been renamed Renaissance, because of the connotations of the name, and in homage to a 1960s cruise ship of the same name which was well known for France’s Paquet Cruises. The funnel will be repainted to reflect the French tricolor.
They also noted that their new Renaissance will also be registered like her predecessor in Marseille, and will become the first French cruise ship homeported in Marseilles in 38 years. Currently, the only other French cruise company is Ponant, which operates smaller ships focusing on the exploration segment.
The new cruise line said the Renaissance is currently in Greece but that she would be departing shortly. They are planning a $10 million refurbishment and some alterations before entering service in February 2023. Among the changes will be a reduction in the passenger capacity to approximately 1,100 people as some staterooms with be designated for solo travelers. They are not planning major structural changes and will not be adding attractions as they focus on the premium cruise segment. They are planning to add a bowling alley to the cruise ship.
Their new product is aligned with trends in the cruise including the growth in cruising that does not require airplane travel to reach the departure port. The Renaissance will operate cruises from both Le Havre and Marseille, which they said would make it convenient for French travelers. On board, the operation will be French-speaking with a focus on cultural activities, entertainment, and cuisine. Other than seven cruises during school breaks, the cruises will be exclusively for adults.
They plan to start sailing in February 2023 with two cruises to the North Cape followed by cruises to the Canary Islands and Madeira. During the summer the vessel will cruise in Northern Europe. They said research indicated that the premium market also wanted more varied destinations and longer length cruises. Most of their cruises will be at least 12 nights, although they are planning a few mini-cruise breaks. In the fall of 2023, she will reposition to Marseille for Mediterranean cruises. The 2023 program will include 31 departures (20 from Le Havre and 11 from Marseille) and will culminate in January 2024 with a scheduled 120-night grand cruise visiting 28 countries in a circumnavigation of Africa.
CFC expects to carry up to 34,000 passengers during its first year of operation in 2023. In their second year, they are targeting 26,000 passengers with the reduction due to the long cruise. Longer term they said it was possible that they would seek a second ship, again likely from the secondhand market.