Say Goodbye ... to Empress of the Seas

March 26, 2007
Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas is the first ship to be transferred to Pullmantur, the Spain-based cruise and tour operator it acquired last year. But you have another year (or so) to say goodbye: the ship will depart Royal Caribbean's fleet on March 7, 2008.

If you've already booked a cruise past that date, Royal Caribbean's release says its representatives will contact you. As well, the company has established contact numbers for travel agents and consumers who have questions; call 888-281-9344.

More details on how the ship will be transformed once it's officially transferred to Pullmantur were not revealed.

As you may recall, Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited -- owner of Celebrity Cruises as well as Royal Caribbean International -- acquired Pullmantur last November as part of its strategy to expand into Europe. Pullmantur, founded in 1971, is the largest cruise operator in Spain. It has two primary business interests: cruises and tour operations. Its cruise division consists of five ships operating in Europe and Latin America. The fleet included -- at least at the time of RCCL's acquisition -- two former Renaissance R-series ships and the one-time Pacific Princess, which you may remember from the TV series "The Love Boat."

Royal Caribbean already has swapped some ships. The two Renaissance R-class ships will head over to this side of the Atlantic where they will undergo refurbishments before being transformed into Celebrity Journey and Celebrity Quest; both will re-launch this year. In turn, Celebrity Zenith will be sent over to Pullmantur this spring. It sails its last cruise as Zenith on April 13.

Empress of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean's oldest ships -- read: few balconies, smaller staterooms. The 48,563-ton, 2,020-passenger ship joined the fleet in 1990, and just a few years ago became the first middle-aged Royal Caribbean ship to undergo a significant refurbishment (others that have followed include Enchantment of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas).

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor