In an unexpected move, Carnival Corporation’s Seabourn Cruise Line announced the sale of its 14-year-old cruise ship, the Seabourn Odyssey, to Japan’s Mitsui O.S. K. Lines. While Carnival has stated its intention to sell older, less lucrative ships from its fleet, Seabourn, which specialises in luxury cruises and expedition trips, has yet to be included in the sales attempts thus far. Mitsui O.S.K. Lines previously said it intended to upgrade and grow its Japanese cruise operations.
The Seabourn Odyssey, built-in 2009 by Italy’s T. Mariotti, was the first of a new series of ships intended to upgrade and extend Seabourn, a brand founded in 1988 by Norwegian billionaire Atle Brynstad and experienced cruise line executive Warren Titus.
Being one of the earliest contemporary adaptations of luxury yacht-style sailing, Seabourn began with cruise ships holding just 200 people, all in suites. Carnival Corporation first invested in Seabourn in 1991 and again in 1996, when it owned 50% of the firm, and they bought the whole of Seabourn in 2001.
The Seabourn Odyssey, at 32,477 gross tonnes, offered new amenities to the company, expanding guest capacity to 458, more than twice that of the first cruise ships.
Because of its increased size, the cruise line was able to provide additional amenities, including suites with private balconies, catching up with a rising field of competitors in the ultra-luxury market.
The initial cruise ships were sold to Windstar, who replaced them with the Odyssey, two sister ships, and then two bigger, 600-passenger cruise ships built by Fincantieri.
Mitsui O.SK. Lines has agreed to charter the Seabourn Odyssey to Seabourn, allowing the cruise liner to continue operating all scheduled excursions until August 2024. At the end of the charter, the cruise ship will be handed to Mitsui and renovated for the Japanese cruise market.
Carnival Corporation announced plans to sell three cruise ships in 2023, two from Costa Cruises and the third from AIDA, which announced in January 2023 that it would retire the 20-year-old AIDAaura (42,289 gross tonnes), which would be offered for sale alongside her already retired sistership AIDAvita.
Carnival Corporation has sold or retired 24 cruise ships since the 2020 suspension of cruising, in addition to delivering two previously sold ships. The corporation’s fleet has been downsized from 104 ships to about 90.
Being part of the Carnival family of brands, Seabourn has been growing. The cruise line states that it is increasing its emphasis on expedition cruising. “Seabourn’s fleet expansion into the ultra-luxury expedition market allows for a more diverse offering of deployment opportunities, which will lead to new and exciting journeys across all seven continents with a higher guest capacity compared to 2019, even after Seabourn Odyssey’s departure,” the cruise line writes in announcing the sale of the Odyssey.
The Seabourn Venture, the first of two new expedition cruise ships, started service in 2022 and will be followed by a sistership, the Seabourn Pursuit, in 2023. The adventure cruise ships are smaller boats with 264 suites designed to PC6 Polar Class specifications. With the sale of the Odyssey, Seabourn will cut its overall fleet capacity by 15%.