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Why Cruise Lines Sell Ships to Other Cruise Lines (Average Lifespan and More)

I have sailed on many older cruise ships that started their lives as cruise ships for different Cruise Lines

The largest cruise companies, like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, regularly introduce newer, larger ships to their fleets. They can then sell off any older ones.

Emma and Symphony of the Seas
Symphony of the Seas – One of the largest cruise ships at sea

They want to have the biggest ships with the most exciting activities onboard.

In this article, we look at how and why they sell the older ships in the fleet and give examples of ships that have lived another life – sometimes with many other companies.

How Long Is The Life Of a Typical Cruise Ship?

A passenger ship’s design life is normally 30 years.

To keep everything running smoothly for three decades or so, the shipyard gives the owner (the cruise line) a maintenance schedule to follow – similar to service recommendations from a car dealer.

Ships have in-built computer-based maintenance programs that automatically generate work orders for everything from replacing fixtures and fittings to reconditioning propeller bearings.

For cosmetic maintenance issues, from removing rust to painting the hull, it’s up to the ships owners to decide when the work is necessary.

Any issues related to safety are subject to regulatory requirements and inspections from the country where the ship is registered.

Ships are often registered in unusual places. Find out more about why that is here:

Almost All Cruise Ships Fly Foreign Flags – Here Are Three Reasons Why

Normally when a cruise operator receives a new ship, they will keep it for around 25 to 30 years, before selling it on.

Then it is sold down-market and may be operated for another 5 to 15 years before either it’s scrapped or deployed for a few more years with a different purpose – as a hospital ship, or a residential cruise ship for example.

Most ships have an official lifespan of 30 years, their value will depreciate over time.

azamara onward ship port
I sailed on Azamara Onward – previously Pacific Princess for Princess Cruise Lines

The Life Cycle of a Cruise Ship

New cruise ships when ordered from the shipyard, are state-of-the-art vessels, fitted with the most up-to-date amenities to attract customers.

Once the ships are in service they will suffer from cosmetic wear and tear, will age and become outdated.

Newer, often larger, more advanced ships will be built, and the older ships in the fleet may no longer meet the passenger’s expectations.

Also, older ships may be less cost-effective to run than newer, state-of-the-art ships. They have better fuel efficiency and many now run on LNG (liquefied natural gas.) This reduces air pollution and CO2 emissions when burned, compared to standard shipping fuel.

At this point, selling the ship on to another, smaller cruise company can be a wise move.

Why Sell?

The decision to sell a cruise ship will factor in many reasons:

  1. Optimising their fleet:
    • Cruise lines frequently reassess their fleets to ensure each ship meets their current strategic needs.
    • This often means selling older ships so they can invest in newer, larger, or more technologically advanced vessels.
    • Newer Ships offer better fuel efficiency and more amenities for customers.
  2. Financial considerations:
    • Maintaining and refurbishing older ships can be costly. Many upgrades might be needed to comply with international safety and environmental regulations
    • Selling older ships can help cruise lines free up capital for different investments.
  3. Market Adjustments:
    • Sometimes, ships are sold to other lines that operate in different market segments or geographical areas, where the vessel’s smaller size may be a better fit.
    • For example, a smaller cruise ship can be sold to a more luxury line, where it is suited to visit smaller ports with smaller passenger numbers.
Celestyal Cruises
I sailed on Celestyal Olympia – built in 1982 as “Song of America” for Royal Caribbean. She has since been replaced in the Celestyal fleet by a different, second-hand vessel.

Selling a Cruise Ship

Selling a cruise ship is not as straightforward. There is a limited market for selling smaller vessels. The process generally involves:

  1. Market Assessment: Finding potential buyers who might be interested in the ship.
    • This is usually other, smaller cruise lines, investment groups – or even operators in different sectors like floating hotels or private charter services.
  2. Valuation: Deciding the market value of the ship. This can vary depending on its age, condition, and the current demand for similar ships.
  3. Negotiation and agreements are made:
    • Negotiating with potential buyers and reaching a sales agreement for the ship.
    • The ship will be inspected and negotiations made over the terms and conditions of the sale.
  4. Transition to the new owners:
    • The seller must prepare the ship for transfer, which might involve de-branding the ship, and sometimes making modifications requested by the new owners.

Why Would A Cruise Company Want A Secondhand Ship?

For the buying line, acquiring a ship at a lower cost can enable them to expand their operations or enter new markets.

The best-case scenario for an old cruise ship is being sold to a smaller company and beginning a new life.

Ships purchased by other companies are rebranded and refurbished to fit the new cruise line. This is commonly known within the industry as “secondhand tonnage.” 

Due to the financial burden of the Covid pandemic, many cruise companies were looking to sell their old ships to generate profits. They were unable to sell cruises or generate money in the usual way.

Having a smaller fleet helped the companies operate more efficiently when they were able to return to cruising after the pandemic.

2020 was a big year for cruise lines to sell their older ships. Many ships changed hands, or were scrapped altogether.

Royal Caribbean sold two of its oldest ships, the Empress of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas. This made room for its newer, bigger ships, like the Icon of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas. 

  • Empress of the Seas was bought by Waterways Leisure Tourism Private Ltd, part of the Dream Hotel Group.
    • They are launching a new brand, Cordelia Cruises.
    • The 1,600-passenger vessel will be redeployed for the Indian market, 
  • Majesty of the Seas was sold to Seajets – a Greek Ferry Company.
    • She had her name shortened to Majesty and has been laid up in Greece ever since.

Carnival Cruises Lines announced the retirement of Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Fascination and Carnival Imagination in 2020.

These ships were built between 1990-1995, making them 25-30 years old. These ships were sold to scrappers in Turkey, rather than seeing a new life with another cruise company.

Marella Discovery Cruise Ship and Emma Cruises!
I sailed on Marella Discovery – previously Legend of the Seas for Royal Caribbean

Impact on the Cruise Industry

The sale of cruise ships between lines has several impacts on the cruise industry:

  1. Market Dynamics: It allows new and smaller cruise lines to enter the market without having to find the money to build new ships. This can increase competition and diversity in the industry.
  2. Environmental and Regulatory Rules: New owners often must invest in upgrades to meet the latest environmental and safety standards, which isn’t cheap.
  3. Brand Image: For the selling line, removing older ships can strengthen their brand by allowing them to offer a more modern and a better product.
  4. New Brands can emerge For the buying line, acquiring a ship at a lower cost can enable them to start up, expand operations or enter new markets.

Examples Of Companies Who Buy “Second Hand” Cruise Ships

Fred Olsen

There are three ships in the Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ fleet. Balmoral, Bolette, and Borealis.

  • Balmoral
    • The ship was built in Germany in 1988, for Royal Cruise Lines as the Crown Odyssey. In 1989, Royal Cruise Line was sold to Norwegian Cruise Line.
    • Crown Odyssey was renamed Norwegian Crown in 1996.
    • In May 2006 they agreed to sell her to Fred Olsen.
    • The ship was refurbished and lengthened,  with an insertion of a 30-metre (98 ft) midsection, in October 2007
    • She is the smallest ship in the Fred Olsen Fleet.
  • Bolette and Borealis
    • Both ships were previously Holland America Line (HAL) ships, built in 2000 and 1997 respectively.
    • They were originally called Amsterdam and Rotterdam when sailing for HAL.
    • They transferred to Fred Olsen in 2020.

Find out all about the cruise I took on Fred Olsens Bolette here:

Until 2023 Fred Olsen had a fourth ship, Braemar. This was sold to Villa Vie – who are a residential cruise line. Passengers live onboard for months at a time.

Guests buy cabins onboard so that they can live full-time on a cruise ship.

Find out more about that here:

He Paid $100K to Live on a Cruise Ship Without Having Cruised Before – Here’s Why (Interview)


Azamara have four ships in their fleet Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest, Azamara Pursuit and Azamara Onward.

All of Azamara’s vessels are R-Class ships, originally built for the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises, which folded in 2001, just a couple of years after the ships were built.

  • Azamara Pursuit
    • Was built in 2001 in St.Nazaire, France
    • She previously sailed as R.Eight for Renaissance cruise lines, Minerva II for Swan Hellenic, Royal Princess for Princess cruises, and Adonia for P&O Cruises before finally becoming Azamara Pursuit in 2018
  • Azamara Journey
    • She originally sailed as R Six. She was then chartered to the cruise line Pullmantur Cruises and was called the Blue Dream.
    • In 2008 the parent company of Pullmntur, Royal Caribbean International transferred Blue Dream to its new subsidiary, Azamara and she became Azamara Journey
  • Azamara Quest
    • She was also built in 2000 for Renaissance Cruises as R Seven.
    • When Renaissance Cruises collapsed in 2001 she was laid up for two years until chartered to the Germany-based Delphin Seereisen as Delphin Renaissance.
    • In 2006 she was sold to the Spain-based Pullmantur Cruises and renamed Blue Moon. She sailed for Pullmantur until 2007 when she was transferred to Azamara Cruises.
  • Azamara Onward
    • This ship first entered service in 1999, with Renaissance Cruises before the collapse of the company. She was known as R Three.
    • She was bought by Princess Cruises and sailed as Pacific Princess from 2002.
    • She was renamed and began sailing for Azamara in 2022.

Find out about the “France Intensive” cruise I took onboard the Azamara Onward here:

Celestyal Cruises

Celestyal are a Greek cruise line who have two ships and sail mostly Greek Island Hopping itineraries. They have two ships.

  • Celestyal Journey
    • Celestyal Journey was built in 1993 and first sailed for Holland America Line as the Ryndam.
    • Her name was changed to Pacific Aria in 2014 and she was supposed to sail for P&O Australia – but that never happened, she was laid up in Singapore.
    • In 2019, she was supposed to be sold to Cruise and Maritime Cruiseline- but they went bust due to the Covid pandemic.
    • In 2020 she was sold to Seajets, who named her Aegean Goddess, but she was still laid up.
    • She was sold to Celestyal in 2023 and finally began sailing again.
  • Celestyal Discovery
    • She was built in 2003 for the German cruise line Aida Cruises.
    • She was operated by AIDA Cruises for twenty years as AidaAura before being sold to Celestyal and being renamed Discovery.

Find out about the oldest cruise ship I have ever sailed on – Celestyal Olympia- below. She was built in 1982. She has recently been replaced in the Celestyal fleet by Celestyal Journey.

Celestyal Olympia wasn’t scrapped, despite her age. She has since been renamed the Bella Fortuna and is still sailing under a Liberian flag.


All of Marella’s ships had a life with other cruiselines, sailing ships previously built for Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and the German Cruise Line Tui.

Find full details of the ships sizes and history in the article below:

Marella Cruises, Ships by Size – Photo Guide and Reviews

Before You Go

Find out why I think sailing with the British cruise line Marella is a great idea below:

Top 7 Reasons to Take a Cruise With Marella Cruises

Find out about the wonderful food i ate when i sailed with the luxury cruise line Azamara below:

Everything I Ate on my Azamara Cruise (Photos and Menus) – Food Review

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.