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CMV's Former Columbus is Latest Cruise Ship Headed to Indian Scrappers

Columbus cruise ship sold for scrap
Columbus arriving in Darwin on what would become her last cruise (CMV)

Published Mar 23, 2021 8:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

Another classic cruise ship from the 1990s, and the fourth vessel previously operated by the UK’s Cruise & Maritime Voyages, has departed for the scrapyards of India. Introduced in 1989 and having spent the last three years sailing for CMV before the pandemic, the ship which was last known as the Columbus was renamed Colus departing Oman bound for the beaches of India.

The 63,700 gross ton cruise ship had been one of the pioneers of the modern, large cruise ship era. She had been ordered by Boris Vaslov’s Sitmar Cruises, a company that got its start transporting immigrants to Australia and in the 1970s became one of the first in the modern North America cruise industry. After building a modern cruise ship in the mid-1980s, Vaslov had envisioned a major expansion for his cruise operations ordering this large cruise ship to be built by Chantiers de l'Atlantique in France. Two additional large cruise ships were also ordered to be built by Fincantieri in Italy. Vaslov, however, died in November 1987, while the new ships were still under construction.

The French-built cruise ship was floated out from the construction dock named FairMajesty for Sitmar. The line planned to expand its Northern America cruise operations with what was one of the largest cruise ships of the era. However, before she was completed, Sitmar Cruises merged with P&O’s Princess Cruises with the ship being renamed Star Princess before her maiden voyage in 1989.

Sailing alongside the Italian-built sister ships Crown Princess and Regal Princess, the three ships that Sitmar had ordered began the expansion and modernization of Princess Cruises. The Star Princess cruised for nearly a decade primarily in the Caribbean and Alaska before she went to P&O Cruises in the UK where she again was used to expand and modernize the company. During that period, she sailed as the Arcadia.

The ship’s role as a pioneer continued as she was operated by a casual cruise line brand started by P&O called Ocean Village marketed to younger travelers. Carnival Corporation later decided to close the Ocean Village brand and the ship was transferred to P&O Cruises Australia where she yet again was used to expand and modernize the operation. She cruised for nearly seven years as the Pacific Pearl in Australia before it was announced that she had been sold to Cruise & Maritime Voyages.

She spent the last three years of her career sailing in Europe as well as long voyages for CMV. A year ago, as the pandemic forced the shutdown of the cruise industry, the Columbus was in Asia. In one of the more unusual events, CMV received permission to transfer passengers between her and her running mate the Vasco da Gamma at sea off the coast of Phuket, Thailand. The Columbus then began her last, fateful voyage back to the UK. She arrived back in Southampton, England on Easter weekend and after disembarking her passengers was laid up in Bristol along wither other cruise ships that had been marketed by CMV.

In the summer, she was detained by the British authorities over crew welfare issues before CMV was put into administration. The Columbus was sold at auction in the fall for just over $5 million to Marios Iliopoulos of Seajets, who is believed to be buying surplus cruise as an investment looking to charter or resell them as the industry rebounds. Estimates placed the scrapping value of the Columbus at as much as $13 million. Iliopoulos also acquired CMV’s former cruise ship the Magellan at auction and later sold it for scrap. In addition, CMV’s former Marco Polo and Astor have also gone to scrap.

Iliopoulos was believed to be looking for a possible buyer for the Columbus, which while dated in design was still larger and more modern making her more attractive for future operations. With the industry not recovered and little interest for alternate uses such as accommodation ships, the Columbus after having been moved from the UK to Greece departed with rumors that she had been sold for scrap. After transiting the Suez Canal, she briefly stopped off in Duqm, Oman where it is believed the sale for scrapping and other paperwork was completed. Proceeding at the current speed of just 10 knots, she is expected to arrive in India in a matter of days.

She will be joining another of the former Sitmar Cruise ships built by Fincantieri which is also currently being scrapped. The 1990 Crown Princess had operated alongside the Columbus including for a period in the Australian market. After briefly operating in India the ship was sold for scrap last fall after the Indian company Jalesh Cruises also went bankrupt.

The third ship, the former Regal Princess, may have survived a close call with the scrapyard. She had been scheduled to join the CMV fleet but was later sold by Carnival Corporation to become a floating offshore community in Panama. When that collapsed, it was reported that the ship now known as the Satoshi was being sold for scrap, but instead, after lingering in Panama, she is currently sailing to Malta where it is reported she will be handed over to an alternate buyer.

Once three of the pioneers of the large cruise ship era, each of these ships’ careers was cut short by the economic impact of the pandemic.