In a surprise move, the Royal Caribbean Group has announced it is selling premium small-ship brand Azamara to a private equity firm for a reported US$201 million.

The deal looks like a snip considering it is anticipated more passengers are expected to switch to smaller ships once sailings begin.

However, the three-ship fleet is around two decades old and may have bumped heads with Royal Caribbean’s other upper premium brand, Celebrity, which has enjoyed enormous investment and has a stunning line up of new vessels in the Edge class.

The buyer, Sycamore private equity, recently hired the former president of Holland America Line Orlando Ashford as an adviser, but otherwise has no travel interests. It has $10 bn of consumer investments, and pulled out of buying Victoria’s Secrets earlier this year.

Royal Caribbean Group owns Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea, a luxury small ship operator.  It will now focus on the three brands.

Royal Caribbean’s CEO Richard Fain reportedly said: “Our strategy has evolved into placing more of our resources behind three global brands, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea, and working to grow them as we emerge from this unprecedented period.

“Even so, Azamara remains a strong brand with its own tremendous potential for growth, and Sycamore’s track record demonstrates that they will be good stewards of what the Azamara team has built over the past 13 years.”

Stefan Kaluzny, managing director of Sycamore, said that the firm plans to “build on their many years of success serving the brand’s loyal customers.  We believe Azamara will remain a top choice for discerning travellers as the cruising industry recovers over time.”
Azamara had a strong and loyal following, and specialised in destination immersion, staying longer in ports and creating “Azamazing” unique experiences.
It’s focus is expected to continue unchanged.