(12:25 p.m. EDT) -- Here's a story that has baffled the Sherlocks here at Cruise Critic. According to a report in the Korea Herald, a local travel company, All That Cruise, is acquiring a ship from an "overseas cruise line" to begin operating in January 2012 under the name of Hallyu Star. The ship originally pictured in Herald piece? Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. (Interestingly, the photo has since been removed from the story.)
All That Cruises' CEO James Lee would not reveal the name of the ship to the Korea Herald for legal reasons. Another report, from Korean Website KBS World, said the ship would be transferred from a "U.S. cruise operator" in November 2011, and that it's currently sailing the Caribbean Sea.
When Cruise Critic editors and members sleuthed about on the All That Cruise's Korean-language Web site, the ship specs (approximately 74,000 GRT), deck plans (nearly identical to the ones on our site, down to the cabin category colors) and photos on the company's Web site (despite names being erased from the hull) indicated that the ship in question is either Majesty of the Seas or sister ship Monarch of the Seas. A third sister, Sovereign of the Seas, is now sailing for Spain-based Pullmantur Cruises, a sister line to Royal Caribbean, simply as Sovereign. Sovereign, however, is slightly smaller than Majesty or Monarch -- and it's currently sailing the Mediterranean, not the Caribbean as the KBS report mentioned. But to add to the confusion, while Majesty and Monarch have sailings scheduled into 2012, the Pullmantur Web site does not list itineraries for Sovereign past November 2011. Color us suspicious.
Yet Royal Caribbean discredits Cruise Critic's investigative efforts. "We are not selling Majesty," Michele Nadeem, Royal Caribbean's vice president of global corporate communications, told us via e-mail. She added that the ship will also neither be chartered nor leased. When asked about Monarch and Sovereign, she replied, "[We're] not selling any of the ships you are inquiring about." When asked to confirm that despite the use of photos that are remarkably similar to Royal Caribbean ships, the line was not planning to sell, charter or lease any of the aforementioned vessels, Royal Caribbean spokesman Harrison Liu responded, "Yes, we are not a party to this." At press time, we were unable to reach anyone at Pullmantur.
So which ship will All That Cruise acquire? We're not sure. All we know is that, according to the Herald, the line is currently raising funds to purchase a vessel and applying for licenses from the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. The plan is to attract Koreans taking family holidays with sailings that focus on onboard performances by major entertainers, as well as traditional Korean cultural entertainment.
We'll keep you posted as to whether that ship is indeed a Royal Caribbean vessel, a Pullmantur vessel, or neither. Because this case is one that's not so elementary, Captain Watson.
--by Erica Silverstein, Features Editor