A P&O cruise ship which was set to carry hundreds of Kiwi passengers on holiday this summer has been dropped from the fleet, as a deal to sell the 1546-passenger ship fell through.
The Pacific Dawn which operates between Australia and New Zealand and the South Pacific was set to be sold to Cruise & Maritime Voyages at the end of 2021 season. However, following the collapse of CMV in late July the deal was sunk, and P&O were left trying to find a new buyer for the 70,000-ton ship.
On Monday P&O said that the ship would be leaving their fleet ahead of schedule.
"It was originally planned for Pacific Dawn to leave us in February next year but this has now been brought forward to facilitate the sale we've announced today," said the cruise line.
However the unwillingness to name a specific buyer for the ship and the abrupt termination of the ships service has led some to speculate on the fate of the ship. It is not clear if the new owners intend to place the dawn back into service or sell it for scrap.
It will now be leaving service on December 17, with all sailings after this date cancelled.
P&O says it will be offering assistance to passengers affected by this decision, many of whom are based in Australia and New Zealand.
"Seafarers talk about ships having personalities because they develop such affection for the unique way each one operates," said P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell .
"But Pacific Dawn has also been much admired and loved by her many guests, especially her loyal following in Queensland, as well as her crew. Having made more than 610 voyages, she has been the backdrop for countless holiday memories and family celebrations."
The Dawn had been scheduled to sail 11 departures out of Melbourne between December 19 and February 11. These have now been cancelled.
"P&O will make contact with all guests including those residing in New Zealand, either directly or via their appointed travel agent, to let them know of the development and the generous options available to them," said a spokesperson for the cruise line.
"Guests can choose alternative arrangements including a full refund or bonus onboard credit if they choose the future cruise credit option. Guests on select cruises can opt to move their booking to the same time next year and receive bonus onboard credit."
Its current location reported by Cruise Critic is in Cyprus, having already crossed the Suez Canal on the way to new ownership in the Mediterranean. However the waters of Cyprus are not far from the Turkish breakers yards, which have become the final destination for many large pleasure ships since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Dawn came into service in 1991 and has carried 1.2 million Australians and New Zealanders from its home port in Queensland.
The Dawn's crew left tributes to the ship on social media. "There isn't a dry eye anywhere here today as we prepare to farewell Pacific Dawn which for so many years has been the mainstay of our fleet," they said. Captain Alan Dockeray recounted it was almost a year to the day since his crew "plucked three stranded sailors from a life raft off New Caledonia."
Last week Princess Cruises announced the immediate suspension of sailings on the Sun Princess and Sea Princess following a sale to a mystery buyer. News.com.au speculated this unnamed buyer was more interested in scrap than in sailing.
The cruise line said that it would not be announcing the buyer "as a matter of courtesy", allowing the ship's new owner to make the announcement should they so choose.