Oceania is Not For Sale

September 29, 2006

The sexiest rumor in cruising over the past few weeks has been the one about Royal Caribbean's apparent interest in acquiring Oceania Cruises. True, it makes good sense on the surface -- other lines, such as Princess, are carving out boutique ship mini-fleets even as the bigger-is-better trend continues. And the fact that Royal Caribbean is set to acquire the Spanish Pullmantur, which incidentally owns two vessels hailing from the R-series ships designed by Renaissance, is all the more interesting; Oceania, which also operates R-series vessels (it has three), covets those ships. Operating under a mutual parent could result in a relatively easy transfer of the vessels over to Oceania.

In fact, the rumors this week got so hot and heavy that it had, again apparently, already been decided that Royal Caribbean, parent company of Celebrity, would make its aging Zenith the first "new" ship for Pullmantur.

Hold your horses. A reporter from Cruise Business Review, an industry business magazine, notes on its Web site that such a move is no longer grist for the mill. It quotes Tim Rubacky, Oceania's spokesman as saying the rumor is a "non-event."

"The company's not for sale and never has been," he told Cruise Business Review, noting that Oceania Cruises' ownership is 200 percent committed to the company.

But don't give up hope that something, somewhere and at sometime, is in the works. Or could be. Maybe. "There will be some very big news coming down the pike in the next few months and the beginning of next year," Rubacky said. "And I think we might see the exact opposite of what all the speculation is -- we might actually be the hunter and not the hunted."

Our call to Royal Caribbean for comment about the rumors was not returned.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor