Following the sudden and unexpected sale of the Celebrity Century to Chinese interests, there has been some pretty hasty scrambling about at the offices of the French company, Criosieres De France.
The French satellite of Royal Caribbean had been slated to receive the veteran, 1995 built mega ship to join its smaller fleet mate, Horizon. This would leave the way clear for Zenith to be returned to Pullmantur, its Spanish counterpart.
The sale of Celebrity Century to China has effectively torpedoed all that. Plan B is now in effect.
Hence, Zenith will now remain with CDF to sail alongside her twin sister and one time former Celebrity fleet mate, Horizon. Passengers that were booked on Celebrity Century will be offered ‘alternative or better’ accommodation on the Zenith instead.
The big question here is; ‘how’?
At 47,000 tons and with a capacity for around 1,830 passengers each, neither Horizon or the 1992 built Zenith has anything like the passenger space of the 72,000 ton, 1995 built Celebrity Century, never mind the facilities or the entertainment handle. The whole idea of sending Century to CDF was to give that line a significant upgrade in terms of passenger offerings.
That has now gone. And, although the Chinese deal no doubt makes more financial sense from the point of Royal Caribbean, I have to wonder how potential passengers of CDF view their treatment by the parent company. I’d guess that some, if not many, will be less than happy.
And, of course, there is a knock on effect for the Spanish brand, Pullmantur, which was claiming to be able to field a ‘six ship fleet’ by 2016. Presumably, they were banking on the promised return of Zenith as part of that plan.
At present, Pullmantur consists of a trio of illustrious, ex Royal Caribbean stalwarts; Empress, Sovereign and Monarch. While I can well envisage Majesty Of The Seas being made available to the Spanish line in the next year or so, that still leaves them two ships short for their planned expansion. It is difficult to see where another pair of ships would come from in the current market.
This is all a bit of a merry-go-round, and it seems to be very much a case of making mend with whatever is available. It is also potentially counter-productive for the still shaky European subsidiary market in the long run; after a long, and still far from over recession, a period of stability and retrenchment is what both CDF and Pullmatur need.
What chance of that, now?
As ever, stay tuned.