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7 Forgotten Cruise Lines



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Most of us think of the big names currently in the industry when someone mentions a cruise line.  Some of us have extended knowledge of cruising and can therefore name a bunch of the smaller companies as well.

There are many cruise lines from ghost’s past that used to be at the top of their game, but for different reasons, ended up going out of business or merging, to be largely forgotten.

History buffs will especially enjoy this: I give you seven former cruise lines that either you have never even heard of, or had long forgotten about.

1. Crown Cruise Line

Crown Dynasty in Key West in April 1995. Photo by Ray Blazevic via Wikipedia

Crown Dynasty in Key West in April 1995. photo: Ray Blazevic via Wikipedia

This small, upper-class cruise line was founded in 1984 and was based in Boca Raton, Florida.  Their first ship was called Viking Princess, and operated out of San Diego before being transferred to Palm Beach for Bahamas sailings.  The line bought a second ship from a Spanish shipping company, and it underwent a refit to become a cruise ship in 1986.

After another ship joining the line, a 45,000 terminal was built for Crown at the Port of Palm Beach in 1990.  The recession and Gulf War in 1991 affected consumer spending for cruise vacations, and the line had to scale back their business.  Crown Cruise Line was split in two by their parent company, Grundstad Maritime, and part became Palm Beach Cruises, and the other part was turned over to Commodore Cruise Line.

All together, Crown Cruise Line had five ships of their own before the business fell apart and they were all leased or sold to other operators.  The cruise line officially ceased to exist in 2001.

2. White Star Line

The Titanic

The Titanic

The White Star Line of Boston Packets, more commonly known as just White Star Line, was a well-known British shipping company.  It was founded in 1845 in Liverpool, and sailed a fleet of clipper ships between Britain and Australia.  The line acquired its first steamship, the Royal Standard, in 1863.

In the late 19th to early 20th centuries, millions of people were emigrating from Europe to Canada and the US, and White Star was one of the first shipping lines to have passenger ships, with the Oceanic-class ships that they began operating in 1870.

In April 1912, the most famous maritime accident in history occurred to one of White Star Line’s ships, the Titanic.  After boasting that they had built an unsinkable ship, during its crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, the Titanic collided with an iceberg and sunk.  She took 1,502 passengers and crew down with her.

In 1933, both White Star and Cunard, their chief competitor, were in serious financial trouble in the midst of the Great Depression.  The British government agreed to help the cruise lines out under the condition that they merge their North Atlantic operations.  They agreed, and it was official on December 30, 1933.

For a while, they called themselves Cunard-White Star Limited, but in 1947, Cunard acquired the portion of the line that they didn’t own, as well as all assets and operations in 1949, and reverted to just the name “Cunard” on the first day of 1950.


3. Renaissance Cruises

R One as ms Insignia via Wikipedia

R One as ms Insignia via Wikipedia

Renaissance Cruises was founded in 1989 by Fearnley & Eger Rederi in Oslo, Norway, and was later bought by Edward Rudner during the Gulf War.  The cruise line had eight Renaissance-class yacht-like ships between 1989 and 1998.  They carried around 100 passengers each, and were named Renaissance I through Renaissance VIII.  Renaissance Cruises operated voyages to the Greek Isles, Tahiti, the Mediterranean, South Pacific, northern Europe, and Scandinavia.

Its R class was their other class of ships, and these were more ‘cruise ship’ sized.  They were also named quite simply, being “R (number).”  They had eight ships throughout their years in service, R One through R Eight.  They were the pride of the cruise line, and were all built between 1998 and 2001.  By 2001, the company had been in financial trouble for a while, and when the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred, it did the cruise line in.

Now, almost all of their former ships are currently either chartered or operating with other cruise lines.

4. Festival Cruises

The Azur - photo: Carlo Martinelli via Wikipedia

The Azur – photo: Carlo Martinelli via Wikipedia

This Greece-based cruise line was founded in 1992 by George Poulides using second-hand ships.  It began operating after acquiring The Azur from Chandris Cruises, and Starward from Norwegian Cruise Line the following year, which Festival renamed Bolero.  

The cruise line’s first new-build was in 1999, called Mistral.  In 2000, Festival announced they were merging into Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), with the Festival brand being maintained under P&O.  The merger plan was abandoned later that year, though, and two more Mistral-class ships were built in 2001 and 2002.

The company had the option for two more, but decided against it; however, the Mistral-class ships did end up being built, instead for MSC Cruises as Lirica and Opera.  Festival Cruises ultimately ended up going bankrupt in 2004, and all of their remaining ships were auctioned to other operators.

5. Commodore Cruise Line

ms Caribe as Discovery Sun for Discovery Cruise Line - photo: Jon Worth via Wikipedia

ms Caribe as Discovery Sun for Discovery Cruise Line – photo: Jon Worth via Wikipedia

Commodore Cruise Line was founded the same year that Norwegian Caribbean Line (now Norwegian Cruise Line) began operations – 1966.  Wallenius Lines acquired a ferry that was originally ordered by Lion Ferry, who had canceled their order.

This proved good for Commodore, as they reached an agreement with Wallenius who finished the ferry as a cruise ship, and chartered it to Commodore.  It became the first company to operate week-long cruises out of Florida year-round.  In the years to follow, Commodore Cruise Line was acquired by Rederi Ab Sally, and the company acquired more ships for Commodore, then eventually reverted back to just one.

In 1987, Rederi Ab Sally was sold to its competitors Effoa and Johnson Line, which was later merged into EffJohn.  Later, EffJohn decided to merge Bermuda Star Line into Commodore, therefore acquiring a few more ships.  In 1995, Commodore was sold to JeMJ Financial Services, who continued their operations.

Ultimately, in January 2001, after facing harsh competition, Commodore Cruise Line filed for bankruptcy.

6. Premier Cruises

Premier Cruise Line's Big Red Boat I via Wikipedia

Premier Cruise Line’s Big Red Boat I via Wikipedia

This cruise company was formed in the early 1990s by Kristian Stensby, and was focused on new geographic markets that the bigger ones weren’t focusing on at the time.  Primarily they aimed their cruises toward Europeans and South Americans.  It consisted of three operations; Premier Cruise Line, Seawind Cruise Line, and Dolphin Cruise Line.

Stensby grew the company from one to six ships, and in 1997 it became the largest private cruise line in the world at that time.  Premier had many travel partners, including Pullmantur, Thomson Holidays, TUI, and more.  After 1997, Premier changed their business strategies and canceled these agreements.  A number of the partners decided to use the opportunity to create their own cruise operations, such as Pullmantur Cruises which was established when the agreement was cancelled.  Thomson Holidays also used the opportunity to build and expand.

In late 2000, Premier Cruises filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations.

7. Royal Viking Line

Royal Viking Star in 1990 - photo: Terageorge via Wikipedia

Royal Viking Star in 1990 – photo: Terageorge via Wikipedia

Royal Viking Line began in 1972, and each of its first three ships was owned by one of its initial investing partners.  The ships were all built at a shipyard in Finland, and were around 21,000 GRT.  In 1980, the ships were stretched and more cabins were added.  In 1984, the two companies that owned Royal Viking decided to sell it to Norwegian Caribbean Line, and the offices were moved from San Francisco to Coral Gables, Florida.  While under the new ownership, another ship was built for Royal Viking, which was finished in 1992; Royal Viking Queen.  In 1990-91, two ships were moved to the Norwegian Cruise Line brand, and another in 1993 moved to Royal Cruise Line.

In 1994, Knut Kloster (who owned Norwegian) was hard financially, and Royal Viking Line was dissolved.  Some vessels were sold to Cunard, and Royal Viking Sun was combined with four of their other ships to form Cunard Royal Viking Line, which only lasted until 1998.

In the same year, all of Cunard’s ships were merged under the Cunard Line brand.

All of the former Royal Viking are currently owned by other companies, and none are still with Cunard.

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