This weekend, several employees of Pullmantur Cruises informed me that employees (or contractors) hired by Royal Caribbean (which has a 49% ownership in Pullmantur) were involved in removing equipment from and dismantling the interiors of two of the companies’ cruise ships.
The Monarch and Sovereign are currently at the cruise port of Naples, Italy (Stazione Marittima – Terminal di Napol) where a large amount of equipment is reportedly being removed. The interiors of both Pullmantur ships are essentially being dismantled in a huge undertaking where there are around 1,500 pallets being assembled to ship the items from each of the ships. Several individuals who do not wish to be identified state that “everything of value” is being removed from the ships, including artwork and navigational and electrical equipment.
For example, workers are dismantling the theater including the LED wall (photo right), on the Monarch, which projected show backgrounds as well as stage lighting and other production equipment.
Pullmantur is reportedly keeping the project “extremely secretive.” The crew is being kept in the dark regarding the plans for the future of the company.
Pullmantur’s third ship in its fleet, the Horizon, is currently off of the coast of Mumbai where it disembarked Indian crew members from both Pullmantur and Azamara.
What's going on with the Pullmantur fleet? The former Royal Caribbean Monarch & Sovereign (of the Seas) in Naples, Italy.
There are rumors that all of the Pullmantur ships will be going to scrap. There is nothing substantiated at this point. All three ships, Sovereign (built in 1988), Horizon (1990), and Monarch (1991) and are relatively old and inefficient. The Monarch and the Sovereign (of the Seas) used to be in the Royal Caribbean fleet; the Horizon used to be operated by Celebrity Cruises. At the same time, several other people have informed me that two of Pullmantur’s ships are for sale – the Monarch for $125,000,000 and the Horizon for $65,000,000 – although it is clear that they have been on the market long before the pandemic began.
Last week the Cruise Industry News and the popular Travelling with Bruce page on YouTube reported that Pullmantur canceled all cruises through November 15th and was planning to put its three ships into “cold storage.” An absolute minimum of ship employees would then be involved primarily just for fire-watch and security for the ships. It appears clear that Pullmantur is facing substantial financial troubles, as explained in the YouTube site, due to the cease of operations caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (The Horizon reportedly had around 150 crew members who had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus).
The employees who contacted me suggest that a company intending to transport and entertain passengers in the future would unlikely dismantle its ships like this.
Pullmantur is an offshoot of the Madrid-based travel agency Pullmantur. In 2006, Royal Caribbean purchased Pullmantur but later sold a 51% stake in the cruise line to a Spain-based investment firm. Given the current pandemic (and the fact that some news reports indicate that Spain has indefinitely suspended cruising from its ports), it is highly unlikely that Pullmantur could make a profit in the foreseeable future. Whether Pullmantur scraps its fleet or simply puts its ships in “cold storage” remains to be seen.
Customers have contacted our office indicating that Pullmantur is refusing to issue refunds for canceled cruises due to the pandemic. It reportedly is offering only future cruise credits, which will be come worthless if the company ceases operations.
June 22, 2020 Update: This morning, MarketWatch reported that “Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. RCL, -6.87% said its Spanish cruise line Pullmantur Cruceros joint venture with Cruises Investment Holding has filed for reorganization under terms of Spanish insolvency laws, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Royal Caribbean’s stock fell 1.7% in premarket trading. Royal owned 49% of the JV, and Cruises Investment owned 51%. Pullmantur had canceled all sailings through November as a result of the pandemic. ‘Despite the great progress the Company made to achieve a turnaround in 2019 and its huge engagement and best efforts of its dedicated employees, the headwinds caused by the pandemic are too strong for Pullmantur to overcome without a reorganization,’ Pullmantur’s board of directors said in a statement.”
It also appears that Royal Caribbean may offer Pullmantur customers vouchers for the canceled cruises.
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Photo credit: Top – Monarch – By Roel van Deursen – Spijkenisse / Nissewaard CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia; Monarch and Sovereign in port of Naples – via Facebook page of Captain Ivo Joni Botica (who was not interviewed for this article).