What Happens to Old Cruise Ships?

carnival grand holiday cruise ship sale
Carnival Holiday at sunset. - Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wondered what happened to the ship that you took your first cruise on decades ago? Or the one your parents sailed for their honeymoon? Ultimately, almost every cruise ship ends up in the scrapyard, but some live a multitude of lives before being taken apart. We’ve researched a few of our favorite ships and traced their often-colorful history. You might be surprised where they ended up.

Pacific Princess

pacific princess love boat cruise ship
Pacific Princess - Photo by Dashers/English Wikipedia

Not to be confused with the current ship sailing for Princess Cruises called Pacific Princess, the first vessel debuted in 1971 as Sea Venture for Flagship Cruises. Princess acquired the ship in 1975 and renamed her Pacific Princess, where she became famous for appearing in the television series The Love Boat. The ship Island Venture was also sold to Princess in the transaction, which was renamed Island Princess (the current Island Princess is a different vessel). After sailing under a few more operators, the ship was eventually laid up and dismantled for scrap in Turkey in 2013.


Queen Mary

queen mary long beach hotel cunard
Queen Mary Hotel - Sfoskett/Wikimedia Commons

Cunard's fabled Queen Mary, best termed an ocean liner rather than a cruise ship, sailed primarily transatlantic itineraries from 1936 to 1940 and again from 1946 to 1967. From 1940 to 1946, Queen Mary was refitted as an Allied troop ship, painted navy grey and served the war effort by transporting a total of 765,429 American military personnel to Britain on regular Atlantic crossings.

In 1967, the ship was purchased by the City of Long Beach, California and was permanently moored in the city's harbor to serve as a hotel and tourist attraction. Today, it's possible to stay overnight in one of the ship's staterooms, which were enlarged and modernized but retain much of the ocean-liner charm. Tours of the ship are offered daily, including "ghost tours" that visit the allegedly haunted sections of the ship.


Carnival's Mardi Gras

carnival mardi gras ship cruise montreal
Mardi Gras - Photo by René Beauchamp/Wikimedia Commons

Before becoming the infamous Mardi Gras for Carnival Cruise Lines, the 27,000-ton ship was called Empress of Canada, built in 1961 for Canadian Pacific Steamships to sail transatlantic journeys from Liverpool to Canada. Carnival acquired the vessel in 1972, and Mardi Gras stayed with the fleet until 1993. A number of renamings and operators later, the ship — called Apollon then — was laid up and sold for scrap in 2003, having been in service for 42 years.


Carnival's Holiday

carnival grand holiday cruise ship sale
Holiday - Photo by Altairisfar/Wikimedia Commons

Holiday was one of Carnival Cruise Lines’ first new-builds, in their Holiday class of ships. She was built in 1985, and sailed with Carnival until 2009, during which time she was used as temporary housing for Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005. Holiday was then transferred to Iberocruceros and debuted after dry dock in 2010 as Grand Holiday

During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the ship — along with two others — was used as a four-star floating hotel for visiting fans and families of the athletes. Later in the year, Cruise & Maritime Voyages acquired Grand Holiday and renamed her Magellan. The ship is now publicly up for sale for a cool $55 million.


Azamara Pursuit

azamara pursuit adonia cruise ship r8
Adonia - Photo by Piergiuliano Chesi/Wikimedia Commons

Azamara Pursuit is the newest ship to make our list, and the only one still operating as a cruise ship. But in her short 17 years at sea, she's already had an interesting and notable life with many years of cruising ahead of her.

Azamara Pursuit entered service as R8, the final ship in Renaissance Cruises' R-class; R8 sailed for less than 9 months before Renaissance Cruises ceased operations following the 9/11 attacks. Hosting just under 800 passengers, the R-class ships were a bit too small for mainstream cruise lines, but too mainstream in design for luxury lines once they left the Renaissance fleet. Instead of being a perfect Goldilocks blend, they struggled to find homes. R8 was laid up in France for about two years and then began sailing as the Minerva II for Swan Hellenic Cruises. In 2007, she joined the Princess Cruises fleet as Royal Princess. In 2010, she was transferred to Princess' sister line, P&O Cruises, and renamed the Adonia.

In 2016, Adonia was transferred to the upstart "social impact" cruise line, Fathom, where she sailed to the Dominican Republic and became the first cruise ship to sail from the US to Cuba in over 50 years. In 2017, Fathom shut down and Adonia was transferred back to P&O. The return would be brief though, as in late 2017, it was announced that Adonia was being sold Azamara Club Cruises and being renamed Azamara Pursuit. She is undergoing extensive refurbishment and begins sailing for her sixth cruise line and under her fifth name later in 2018, joining the two other R-ships in their fleet, Azamara Journey (R6) and Azamara Quest (R7).


Join the discussion

What was the first ship you ever sailed on?


Posted by AuntPinkie

Carnival Holiday

Posted by Bubba54

enjoyed the article

Posted by MisterBill99

Nordic Prince.

Posted by MisterBill99

BTW it seems like the heading for Azamara Pursuit is inconsistent with the other ships. It lists the latest name. while the others list the initial name.

Posted by ckay2018

First cruise (Royal Caribbean) we ever booked sailed its last voyage as we were told it was being sold to a company based in Spain. Not sure if that is typical, but our first cruise happened to be on this apparently older ship and think we may not have had the best first impression to go by.

Posted by Twincruiserlady

My first cruise was either the last or next to last sailing of Sovereign of the Seas. I really want at least a picture of the ship to post on my cruise display. I've now been on 3 cruises and from now on will keep a model of each ship, but for the Carnival Glory I have a patch and nothing for the Sovereign of the Seas. What happened to that ship?

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