Carnival Corp has wasted little time finding a buyer for one of two cruise ships it earmarked for disposal at the beginning of February.

Multiple cruise and ship recycling sources reported that flagship brand Carnival Cruise Lines’ 70,500-gt Carnival Sensation (built 1993) has been sold to a European Union-approved recycling facility.

According to Turkish recycling sources, breakers at Aliaga are offering between $350 and $380 per ldt for cruise tonnage on a delivered basis.

Taking the higher end of the price range, which TradeWinds was told the larger ships tend to get, this would equate to a price in the region of $11m for the Carnival Sensation.

Carnival has a strict policy of only selling directly to EU-approved green recycling facilities, even though Turkish scrap prices are substantially lower than the $585 per ldt that Pakistani breakers have been offering for cruise tonnage over the past two months.

When Carnival announced it intended to dispose of the Carnival Sensation, which has been in warm lay-up since the onset of the pandemic, and the identical Carnival Ecstasy (built 1991), observers believed that with the cruise sector creaking back to life, the pair stood a higher chance of finding trading buyers.

However, the prompt sale for recycling indicates that Carnival wanted a swift sale and was not interested in spending any more cash keeping the 2,050-berth Carnival Sensation in lay-up while it waited for potential trading buyers to come and kick its tyres.

Carnival insiders said the Fantasy-class ships, which include the Carnival Sensation and Carnival Ecstasy, were fully paid off and written down on the company’s books years before the pandemic and remained popular despite their age, as they were used on secondary routes out of fringe ports because they could be filled by offering hefty discounts to prices newer ships were charging.

One industry executive described them as cash cows, as all earnings, when offset against operating costs, were pure profit.

That lucrative operating environment has not come back, although Carnival Cruise Line will have returned its entire fleet to service by May, less than 10 months after resuming operations.

Discount cruise retailers are offering four-night cruises on the Carnival Ecstasy, which will operate out of Mobile, Alabama from March to October, for as little as $149 per person. That price, which is for the whole cruise, is unlikely to buy a night in a half-decent hotel in most big US cities.

Carnival built eight Fantasy-class ships between 1990 and 1998. As the oldest units of the fleet, they were first to be culled when Covid-19 brought the cruise industry to an abrupt halt.

Four of the ships, mostly units that had yet to have a major mid-life upgrade that included the installation of private balconies and other features to make them more compatible with the brand’s newer ships, were quickly sold off in 2020 and subsequently recycled.

Carnival Cruise Line will be left with two 1998-built Fantasy-class ships once the Carnival Sensation and Carnival Ecstasy have left its fleet.