Crocieres de France
To try and re-open the French cruisemarket, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines founded Crocieres de France as a subsidiary of Pullmantur Cruises, its Spanish stronghold. The company was founded in september 2007 when Holiday Dream was transferred from Pullmantur Cruises and re-named Bleu de France. The ship was originally built as HAPAG-Lloyd's Europa in 1980 and started sailings from Marseilles in the Mediterranean from may 2008 onwards. She is nowadays sailing for Saga Holidays as their Saga Sapphire. The company was an all-inclusive cruise-product, so also drinks and tips are included in the fare.
Although the on-board product was definitely French, the ships were registered at Malta and in my opinion, it would have been better if the ships had been registered in France also, maybe this would also have given the ships more attention in France. But of course also the Spanish market is served by ships sailing under flags of conveniece through Pullmantur Cruises itself. It seems that even the large players in the industry don't dare to gamble and create a truly unique brand for a market that is been targeted. But at least the name of the first ship, Bleu de France, was something more original then anticipated.
Bleu de France was sold to Saga Holidays in september 2010 and chartered back for one year, before she was replaced with Horizon, that also came from Pullmantur. Of course, she was originally built for Celebrity Cruises under that same name and had sailed for Pullmantur as Pacific Dream. Sadly, the ship recieved back the name Horizon for her services for CdF, no more original French names seemed appropriate according to her owners. Horizon's sistership Zenith joined the fleet of Crocieres de France in 2014, also still under the name she already had as a Celebrity Cruises ship. In the summer of 2014, it was announced that Celebrity Cruises was also moving over its oldest ship Celebrity Century to Crocieres de France in 2015, and that Zenith would be leaving the fleet for service with Pullmantur. But in september, the whole sceme was changed when Celebrity Century was sold to a new Chinese cruiseline, CTrip from the spring of 2015 onwards as SkySea Golden Era. The two former Celebrity ships kept sailing under the banner of CdF instead, but only part of the year. They were also sailing cruises for Pullmantur Cruises itself.
As I think it is a good thing that companies are more orientated locally, the way this is done is sometimes too plain and simple. It looks like Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was not willing to really think about shipnames that were also French orientated. Only in Bleu de France there seems to be some inspiration, but this was sadly not continued. Sometimes, the ships are referred to with their names starting with CDF, but on the ships hulls this is not the case. And when it was, it again is a simple and un-imaginary system of naming. To really start up a French-based company doesn't seem to be the reason the company was started up in the first place. It seems to be just a way to get rid of older tonnage out of the main fleets and I think that is not enough to be really locally attractive. It also makes it of course easy to keep on swiching ships between brands and in that way saving costs then when a ship was renamed. But this makes brands that should be dedicated to one market uninspiring, showing that real investment is not made.
Enough bad talk, the company seemed to do quite well within the market they were serving, sailing Mediterranean and European cruises in summer and Caribbean cruises in winter, a very common scedule. The language on board is of course French and also the entertainment and cuisine is orientated for the French clientele.
In may of 2016, Royal Caribbean sold 51 percent of Pullmantur to the Madrid-based investor Springwater Capital. Included in this deal of course also was Crocieres de France, that now also was to be owned for 51 percent by this Spanish firm. Not much seemed to change at first, but the earlier mentioned lack of investment as in a true brand maked clear that this French adventure could easily be just temporarily. In december of 2016 this proved right, as the CdF brand were losing it's own ships, replaced within the Pullmantur fleet starting the spring season of 2017. To not loose the French passengers, marketing in France was also picked up by Pullmantur, but the ships lost their French style and also the northern port of Calais, that was to be replaced by Rostock in Germany. And so ending a nice initiative that sadly hasn't been totally worked out during operations.
The first ship that has sailed for CdF is placed elsewhere at this website
Bleu de France (2008-2010) is placed under HAPAG-Lloyd as Saga Sapphire