TUI Cruises, the joint venture, will launch with one ship in early 2009 and will ultimately grow to a fleet of three vessels. The first ship, as yet unnamed, will be an existing vessel and will be refurbished prior to its debut. The next two will be new-builds and will debut in 2011 and 2012.
Royal Caribbean and TUI AG will each hold a 50 percent ownership.
If TUI sounds familiar to you it may be because Carnival Corporation had announced this time last year that it would form a joint venture with TUI AG to market and operate two German-focused cruise lines. One would have been the existing AIDA, which is already part of the Carnival Corp. family of cruise lines; the other would be a new Tui Cruises brand.
Indeed, at the time, Carnival Corporation Chairman and CEO Micky Arison sang TUI's praises in a statement: "TUI is a highly diversified and experienced company in the European travel and tourism sector and has extensive brand awareness throughout Europe, particularly in Germany. By combining TUI's strengths with Carnival's tremendous experience in building, operating and marketing cruise ships, we are creating an excellent platform for growth in the rapidly expanding German cruise market."
Alas, European regulators put a kibosh on the deal and now it appears that Royal Caribbean has swooped in and scooped it.
This deal, too, is subject to approval.
The new line, regardless of who owns it, is meant to ramp up Germany's already thriving cruise business. Carnival's AIDA, on one hand, offers an innovative and ultra-contemporary style of cruising while Hapag Lloyd, another major line, focuses on top-notch luxury and expedition voyages. The new TUI Cruises will aim for territory in the middle -- offering a slightly more upscale but outright luxurious onboard ambience.
Both Royal Caribbean and TUI AG are major players in the industry. RCCL, with 35 ships, is the world's second largest line. TUI AG owns Hapag-Lloyd along with 51 percent of shares in TUI Travel PLC, a London-based company that operates ships under the Thomson banner. As a result of another Royal Caribbean joint venture, the company also operates the U.K.-based Island Cruises.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief