The Rise & Fall of Renaissance Cruises


Continuing our series of ‘The Rise & Fall of’ we are looking at Renaissance Cruises. Renaissance, also known as R Cruises is perhaps one of the most interesting cruise line failures despite the cruise lines 12 year lifespan.

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The Rise and Fall of Royal Viking Line


In the continuation of our ‘The Rise and Fall of’ series we are looking at Royal Viking Line. This is probably one of the most loved cruise lines to have ever ceased to exist. The Norwegian Company was based in San Francisco, founded as a partnership of three Norwegian shipping lines the company’s brand name continues to be held in high esteem.

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The Rise & Fall of: Royal Olympic Cruises

Continuing our popular series ‘The Rise & Fall of’ we are looking at Royal Olympic Cruises, whose collapse is a prime example of the dangers in the cruise industry. If you used to work for Royal Olympic Cruises or had been on a Royal Olympic Cruise please comment below, send us an email ( or contact us on Twitter & Facebook. Continue reading

Chapter 11 : Could a Cruise Line do an American?

In the wake of the collapse of American Airline into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, I wondered if it was possible for a cruise line to perform a similar maneuver.

Now in the United Kingdom this came as a bit of a shock, the fact American hadn’t been into bankruptcy like Delta and United made us believe it was financially viable like our own British Airways, or Air France KLM. However we may have been distracted by the near collapse of Thomas Cook Group PLC, who needed to restructure its finances.
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The Rise & Fall of: Festival Cruises

Continuing our series on ‘The Rise & Fall of’ we are looking at Festival Cruises, whose collapse is the most recent, declaring bankruptcy in 2004. If you used to work for Festival Cruises or had been on a Festival Cruise please comment below, send us an email ( or contact us on Twitter & Facebook.

In 1992 George Poulides founded Festival Cruises, it started services in 1994 with The Azur, which had been acquired from Chandris Cruises, This was followed by Bolero and with continued success the company added Flamenco to the fleet in 1998.

In 1999 the company added Mistral, its first new build, at a cost of $240 million. The ship was built at the same yard as the Normandie & Queen Mary 2, Chantiers de l’Atlantique in St.-Nazaire, France.

The ship was built as part of a strategy to locate the company in the middle of the cruise market, just above Royal Caribbean, but below Celebrity, with a distinctly European flavour, the company was not allowed to operate in the United States under the Festival name, as it was deemed to be too similar to Carnival, so the company traded as First European in America.

Following on from Mistral, two slightly larger improved sister ships were ordered for delivery in 2001 & 2002, to be known as European Stars and European Vision. These ships features more balcony cabins, but, like Mistral were never going to win a beauty contest!

This would give the company three large new ships, in the growing European market. Upon delivery the older ships in the fleet were chartered out, making sure the brand had a solid identity, two further options for Mistral class ships were passed on, later being picked up by MSC Cruises, becoming MSC Lirica and MSC Opera (We have toured MSC Opera here)

In May 2000 P&O announced plans to acquire Festival Cruises for $600Million, who would join P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Swan Hellenic and Aida as a European brand. However two months later the merger plan was dropped, due to the low value of cruise shares at that time.

Also joining in 2002 was ‘the ship that sank the Andria Doria’ the former Stockholm, now named Caribe, this ship is regulary forgotten as operating for the Festival fleet, she sailed out of Havana. Now this ship operates for Classic International Cruises as Athena, and is one of the oldest operating cruise ships in the world. This could surely have only confused the Festival cruises product.

During 2003, an interesting concept was launched between Festival and Hilton, where there would be 25 ‘Hilton Suites’ on its new builds, these would feature butlers who had been trained by Hilton, and the suites would contain Hilton branded amenities. The idea being that the line could use a trusted brand to expand further into the America market.

In 2004, Festival Cruises ships were arrested, and the battle lines were drawn for a complex bankruptcy, drawn out over five months. During this time Royal Caribbean, who had lost out to Carnival for P&O Princess PLC, were linked to takeover the company. The ships were arrested as Alstom (owners of the shipyard) claimed Festival had broken its
contractual financial obligations.

The company made a series of announcements that operations would restart, but slowly, one by one its offices were closed and the ships auctioned off. The company even attempted to relaunch with just its new ships, Mistral, European Stars & European Vision. In July 2004 MSC acquired European Stars & European Vision, to join sister ships MSC Lirica and MSC Opera. European Stars is now MSC Sinfonia. European Vision now operating as MSC Armonia. Mistral was sold to a group of French investors, who have chartered her to Ibero cruceros now named Grand Mistral.

The company, like a lot of cruise industry failures, went too big too fast. If acquired by P&O it is likely the company would still be operating. Of most cruise lines which declare bankruptcy, I think this one has probably gotten the closest to success due to its modern ships, ironically it was paying for these modern ships that caused their collapse.

Did you used to work at Festival Cruises, do you have any memories of being on Festival?
Please get in touch; You can comment below, Use Facebook, Twitter or Email us.

If you liked this article you may like;
The Rise & Fall of : Premier Cruise Line 
The Rise & Fall of : Regency Cruises

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Festivals Fuzzy Future – News article during bankruptcy
Postcards of the Festival Fleet
Festival & Hilton News Article
MSC Opera Visit
P&O + Festival Merger cancellation

Cruise Line Brand Positioning

Our last blog, On Where does Princess fit? made me us think about how cruise lines have moved an developed their brand positioning. In Bob Dickinsons ‘Selling The Sea’ [We’ve got a blog for that] it covers how Norwegian Cruise Line has changed it’s brand positioning.

From Memory we would say that Norwegian has had the most logos of any cruise line, but with some more research the ‘Freestyle’ cruise line hasn’t always been so laid back.
This advert from 1991 markets the ships in a slightly comic way, we think the joke at the end is just awful. But non the less.

However by 1995 Norwegian Cruise Line had grown up and sexed up. According to Bob Dickinsons ‘Selling the Sea’ this was because of Norwegians lack of new build orders, due to ongoing financial problems. The line had not launched a ship since 1993, while competitors where adding many new ships.

A change in management with a new President Adam Aron meant that NCL tried to differentiate itself from the competitors, so the slogan ‘Its Different Out Here’ was launched. The aim of the marketing campaign was to take the emphasis off the ship and put it on the benefits of taking a cruise.

The campaign was well received by the advertising industry, but less so by the cruise industry, who believed that NCL were overselling themselves. From the adverts it appeared that NCL was equivalent to Seabourn or any other premium line. Other said the campaign scared people away from cruising as to ‘snobby’.

Now in the 21st Century NCL promotes itself as a freestyle cruise line, decidedly different, we believe, from its previous advertising. However we believe that this position in the market suits it well. [We Have A History of NCL Blog]

Cunard Line has transformed itself from a transatlantic carrier into a premium cruise line, In the 1950’s passengers sailed on the Queen Mary & Queen Elizabeth, but they were not the luxury ocean liners that they are now portrayed as, these ships had three classes. We don’t believe that 3rd Class was as luxurious as Cunard’s current product. The modern-day equivalent being airplane economy class.

Recently Royal Caribbean has transformed its self from an Upper-Mass Market cruise line into a Mass Market cruise line. This change started with the Voyager of the Seas, and has continued on both the Freedom and Oasis class.

Previously Royal Caribbean prided itself on all the free items you receive in your cabin, now they pride themselves in being innovative and modern. Royal Caribbean has they way it is perceived. If you compare the Vision class ships with the Oasis class you can see how much Royal Caribbean’s product has changed, it is so significant that Royal Caribbean has launched the Royal Advantage refurbishment program to bring the fleet into line. [We have a blog for that too]

Changing a market position for a cruise line is difficult, In our ‘The Rise and Fall of’ Series  we pointed out how Premier changed their market positioning more times than the weather, which probably assisted its demise [Check that blog here]

It was the Top Ten Cruise Adverts blog that inspired us to do this blog! –

Do you have any examples of cruise lines which have changed how they market themselves? Let us know! Facebook, Twitter, Comment and Email!

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The Rise and Fall of : Premier Cruise Line

The second in our series of ‘The Rise and Fall of:’ We are covering Premier Cruise Lines. We had some great responses from former Regency Cruises staff when we covered their collapse last month (check the article), we hope we can repeat that with Premier Cruises.

Premier Cruise Lines

Started in 1983 as an arm of the Greyhound bus company it grew by offering holiday packages that included staying in Orlando for Disney World & Universal Studios. The company was sold in 1997 following three years of profits.

This marked a change for the business who soon stopped dealing with Disney, mainly due to the launch of Disney Cruise Line. The company also had a lot of business dealing with European tour operators such as Thomson in the UK, TUI in Germany and Pullmantur in Spain, during the changes in strategy these tour operators started their own operations, which lead to Premier losing their custom.

In an attempt to continue the family friendly theme Premier started a partnership with Warner Bros, However this plan soon began to unravel as Premier’s old ships did not meet the requirements of its passengers. The company took to marketing itself as classic budget vacations with interesting ports of call, This led to a merger with Seawind Cruise Line & Dolphin.

The merged company adopted the common identity of Premier Cruise Lines, and all ships except the Oceanic where given  dark blue hulls, The newly combined company purchased the Rotterdam from Holland America Line and she became the flagship of the new company as the Rembrandt.

However as this plan was underway a change in strategy saw the company return to the family market and rebrand ships as ‘Big Red Boats’. This involved painting the ships hull bright red. Soon reports where abound that Premier was to repaint the famous Rembrandt bright red.

In June 2000 the company dismissed 10% of its workforce and had lost $20,000,000 the previous year. The Ocean Breeze was sold to Imperial Majesty to free up cash in either 1999 or 2000 (reports vary). Like Regency, Premier was hit in 2000 by mechanical problems and fuel prices, as well as lawsuits about lack of disabled facilities on its vessels.

Premier Cruise Lines collapsed into bankruptcy in September 2000, the ships were arrested in ports around the world. The Seattle Times wrote about how this was expected in some travel circles, with only 13% of Travel Agents offering Premier cruise lines as an option six months before the collapse. (source)

At the time of the collapse Premier Cruise Lines was reportedly the Worlds 5th Largest Cruise company at the time. (It sounds crazy that a cruise line with just 5 ships could be the 5th largest! However 11 Years ago Louis and MSC where smaller, so it is possible!).
2,600 people where onboard the ships when the music stopped, and had to return home.

Premier had no doubt seen a reprieve following the collapse of Regency Cruises (Covered Here) with the company benefiting from the loss of its nearest competitor.

The ships were arrested around the world, With Seawind Crown who was in Barcelona under charter to Pullmantur being arrested there. Most of the fleet was however sent to Freeport, Bahamas.

Since the collapse only two of the fleet members are still in existence. The Rembrandt was purchased by the City of Rotterdam and has been transformed into hotel and conference venue for the city, her performance has been mixed.

SS Oceanic, the original Big Read Boat, has survived and was sold to Pullmantur following the bankruptcy and was later sold on to Japan’s PeaceBoat project, she is still looking great!

Interestingly the Seabreeze sank in December 2000 under suspicious circumstances, the skeleton crew was saved, The ship had a $20Million insurance policy registered against it, despite a scrap value of around $5Million. The ship sank in International waters while under the Panama flag, which means it is the job of the Panamanian authorities to investigate the sinking. The ship was a mere 25 miles outside international waters.

The rest of the fleet Big Red Boat 3 (ex Island Breeze, Festivale and Transvaal Castle), Big Red Boat 2 (ex Eugenio C) and Seawind Crown (ex Vasco Da Gama) were sold for scrap.

So did you work for Premier Cruise Lines, or did you cruise with them? Tell us about your memories and experiences! Comment Below. Facebook. Twitter and Email.

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If you liked this check out our article on The Rise and Fall of Regency Cruises

The Rise and Fall of : Regency Cruises

We’re going to be doing a series of blogs titled ‘The Rise and Fall of : …’. These will investigate the business decisions and influences that caused some cruise businesses to end services. Our intentions are to run an article on each of the on the following: Regency Cruises, First European/Festival Cruises & Royal Olympic Cruises and of course Premier Cruises. We hope you enjoy them and if you have anything to say about any of the above get in contact with us:, Comment below or Facebook or Twitter.


Regency Cruises was found in 1984 with the Regent Sea (Get the terrible pun?) by two former directors of Paquet Line. The original business plan called for former ocean liners converted for cruising with the aim of running these cruises offering first class service, comparable of the ‘golden age of sea travel’. The company was shown to have a very successful first season, after which ownership reverted to The Lelakis Group, who were the owner of the vessel, from then on in the cruise line quickly developed adding Regent Star in 1986 and Regent Sun 1987.

It is discussed on cruise message boards across the internet that under Lelakis the Regency Cruise product was changed, with an emphasis on costs the product was evolved into that of a budget cruise line, with Regency’s previously high standards said to dropped significantly during this time

The same message boards play host to comments about the impending collapse of the cruise line. It is reported that the Captain of the Regent Star sent a Telex, remember this is before emails and the internet, saying ‘We were just arrested by the French authorities. Now what?‘, Interestingly by the time the Regent Star finished the cruise the Line had entered bankruptcy, and an agent for the bank had to assist passengers getting home.

Another makes a comment about a cruise on the Regent Star, and how a few months before bankruptcy they had been told by the cruise director that they would not be able to transit the Panama Canal, in the eventuality they did manage to transit the canal, the likely reason for this being problems paying the canal fees.

Devils on the Deep Blue Sea, one of our favourite books says that the cruise line was spectacular at staying operating in its final days, When the toilets broke on Regent Sun, were most lines would have cancelled the cruise, Regency just provided several portable toilets, which were loaded onto the aft deck. Also when the air-conditioning system failed on the same ship, it was not repaired just lied about. Embarking Passengers who questioned about the heat were advised it was due to the holds in the vessel being opened during changeover day an that once the vessel was underway the vessel would cool down as the air-conditioning would kick in, of course not being true, it didn’t work, but what where they going to do, jump overboard?

The same book says that when a vessel was arrested on behalf of a creditor by the Honduran authorities the hotel manager offered a lifeboat and a room steward as collateral to continue the cruise.

The day before Halloween the company finally collapsed, in the words of the trade press the company had ‘Abandoned its ships as sea, turned on its answering machines at its New York head office and left several hundred passengers to fend for themselves.’

In total around 30,000 passengers joined the list of creditors to reclaim the money against the line. Staff had been unpaid for weeks, and following the bankruptcy where left stranded around the world on empty cruise ships, the staff sold televisions and other fixtures onboard to make money to buy food, the ships safes where quickly emptied to buy food for the struggling employees.

There are numerous reasons for the collapse, but the cruise line had grown quickly in its final years and competition had increased, the low-cost value nature of the product, as well as operating older vessels left the company at a disadvantage, the cost of keeping the vessels operating in line with SOLAS guidelines was huge.

By the time of collapse the line had grown to seven ships; Regent Star, Regent Sea, Regent Sun, Regent Jewel, Regent Spirit, Regent Rainbow, with the Regent Sky under construction, upon the collapse the shipyard stopped work and the ship is currently still awaiting to be finished. A few of the ships saw service again:
– Regent Jewel as Calypso for Louis Cruises
– Regent Spirit saw service as Salamis Glory
– Regent Rainbow as the Emerald for Louis Cruises & Thomson Cruises
The rest of the fleet either sunk or was scrapped.

We hope you enjoyed that, And if you have anything to add let us know, Facebook , twitter, comment below or email us, we would love to hear from you!

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