Perhaps most notably we heard the rumour that Carnival is in early talks with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund for a potential sale of Seabourn, who recently celebrated the full return to service of their fleet with Seabourn Sojourn sailing from Athens in early June. Rumours of interest in cruise from the Saudi government have been circulating for some time, as demonstrated by recent charters with Silversea and Scenic plus the significant investment being made to attract cruise ships to Saudi ports. Carnival haven't commented on the speculation, and it's fair to say we've heard gossip like this before, most recently regarding Crystal, so it remains to be seen whether it will come to anything.
On the subject of Crystal, there was news earlier this month that buyers have been found for their three ocean ships. Crystal Serenity and Symphony were sold at auction to A&K Travel Group, while the word on the street is that expedition ship Crystal Endeavor has been acquired by Silversea and will be renamed Silver Endeavor - exciting news if this turns out to be the case!
In new ship news, Cunard's latest vessel, the 3,000-guest Queen Anne, broke booking records for the line when itineraries opened for sale in May. Departing on 4 January 2024 from Southampton, the inaugural voyage has already sold out. The maiden season includes Canary Islands, transatlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean and Norwegian Fjords sailings, and stretches to April 2024.
Virgin Voyages' Valiant Lady launched back in March, which we mention here because two of the Mundy team were tempted into taking a Barcelona round-trip voyage recently, and really enjoyed it. On board you can expect fantastic food, friendly and attentive service, innovative and interactive 'street' style entertainment, and lots of loud music. Definitely aimed at a younger crowd!
Unfortunately for Virgin they have also announced a delay to the launch of their third ship, Resilient Lady, from this summer to the second quarter of 2023, citing supply chain issues, uncertainty in East Europe, crewing challenges and Covid entry requirements back into the US.
Swan Hellenic looks to have broken ties with Vodohod, their Russian owners, and have stressed that the company is not under sanction and that the only Vodohod parties with any interest are EU citizens. The revived brand is also reported to be in the process of buying their recently launched expedition vessel SH Minerva, her sister ship SH Vega, due for delivery this month, and SH Diana from the Russian-owned leasing company.
Viking have taken delivery of the 930-guest Viking Mars, which, for those of you who might struggle to keep up with Viking's ship launches, is the eighth in its class. More excitingly we've heard excellent reports back from the first of their 378-guest expedition ships, Viking Octantis, launched at the beginning of the year. Extensive deck viewing areas and smart interior design creates a comfortable expedition base, with two submersibles available and the ability to launch their fast special operations boats from inside the ship via a track exiting at the stern!
Ponant have hosted over 200 scientists, policymakers, business experts, government representatives, community leaders and environmental activists in French Polynesia on board Paul Gaugin for the Blue Climate Summit, with the purpose of accelerating ocean-related solutions to climate change, a further demonstration of their focus on sustainability.
Finally, it's fantastic to see that cruising has officially restarted in Australia, with P&O Cruises Australia flagship Pacific Explorer leaving Sydney and marking the end of the pause of operations which lasted more than two years. New Zealand follows suit by reopening their maritime borders on 31 July, in another sign that the industry is getting back to its pre-pandemic strength.