The well respected website, Cruise Industry News (www.cruiseindustrynews.com) is reporting that Pullmantur cruises is closing it’s South America office at the end of March.
The Spanish cruise line- an offshoot of Royal Caribbean International- has been sailing troubled waters for some time now.
Last year, the intended transfer to Pullmantur of Majesty of the Seas was put on indefinite hold. The ship- the third of the original, pioneering Sovereign class of mega ships- was earmarked to rejoin her sister ships Sovereign and Monarch in the Pullmantur fleet.
Instead, it was decided to keep the ship at RCCL instead and, after a substantial refurbishment, she is due to start a new series of three and four day cruises from Port Canaveral for the parent company.
Then came the news that the 1990 built Empress (ex Nordic Empress, Empress of the Seas) would be leaving the Pullmantur fleet and returning to Royal Caribbean as- Empress of the Seas. The ship is currently being refurbished in a shipyard in Cadiz, before returning to Royal Caribbean after some eight seasons with Pullmantur.
All of this should have been enough to set alarm belles ringing, especially after the end of the rival Spanish cruise operator, Iberocruises. This offshoot of Costa had also been struggling for quite some time.
Thus far, Pullmantur is planning to have one ship in South America over the coming winter of 2016/17, and the likelihood is that she will be chartered and sold by one of the local market operators, such as CVC.
The South America market as a whole is witnessing some enforced contraction, with MSC, Costa, and even Royal Caribbean itself downsizing their winter deployments there. Interestingly, only Norwegian Cruise Line is bucking the trend right now, with a deployment this winter of the popular Norwegian Sun down South America way.
As for 2016, Pullmantur has the Monarch in the Baltic, marking the first ever deployment of a Sovereign class mega ship on any Northern European itineraries.
Part of the problem for Pullmantur is that, while Sovereign and Monarch are still fine ships, they have far too many small inside cabins, precious few balcony cabins, and few of the bells and whistles of the rival Costa and MSC ships. They also lack the raft of alternative dining options offered by the competition. Those likely so sail down South America way are more likely to be attracted to these newer vessels in many cases.
Pullmantur does have the theoretical advantage of being an ‘all inclusive’ product compared to the competition, but current events would seem to suggest that is not enough to even the scales.
It would be a shame to see this spirited little Spanish operation go to the wall. Let’s hope it does not come to that.
As ever, stay tuned for updates.