Royal Caribbean Group has completed the sale of its Azamara cruise brand to Sycamore Partners, a private equity firm specializing in consumer, retail, and distribution investments. They had announced their plan to divest their smallest cruise line to focus on their larger Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises brands.
Formed in 2009, the Azamara brand had struggled to find its place in the industry before establishing itself as a niche, destination-focused line. They operated two smaller, 700-passenger ships that Royal Caribbean had acquired in the acquisition of Spain’s Pullmantur Cruises and unlike the company’s other brands did not receive new builds. After a decade of operations, Royal Caribbean acquired a third sister ship for Azamara that was introduced in 2018.
Sycamore Partners paid $201 in the all-cash transaction to acquire the three cruise ships, the brand, and its associated intellectual property. It marks the firm's first investment in the travel sector.
"This creates huge opportunities for all parties," said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group. "I am confident that the brand's success and growth trajectory will continue under the stewardship of Sycamore."
Concurrently with the closing of the acquisition, Sycamore also took delivery on a fourth sister ship, which they announced will be named the Azamara Onward. The cruise ship was acquired from Carnival Corporation’s Princess Cruises as part of Carnival’s effort to remove older and less productive ships from its global fleet. Delivered on March 15 in Civitavecchia, Italy, the ship will receive an extensive renovation before its scheduled inaugural cruises in Europe in 2022. Azamara said that it chose the name as it signifies the brand's trajectory and the next chapter in the line’s operations.
As part of its investment into the cruise industry, Sycamore also hired Orlando Ashford who had previously been the president of Carnival’s Holland America Line. Ashford, who is credited with the revitalization of the Holland America brand before his departure in the summer of 2020, became Executive Chairman of Azamara. He is joined by Carol Cabezas who had been with Azamara at Royal Caribbean and has become President of Azamara.
Azamara’s three cruise ships, the Journey, Quest, and Pursuit, are currently laid up in Glasgow, Scotland. The company has not announced its plans for a resumption of service.