Israel’s Mint Marine has sold one of the last remaining relics of the 1970s cruise building boom for recycling in Turkey.

The 16,900-gt Gold Club (built 1977) was beached at Aliaga on 11 July, bringing to a close a 45-year career with notable cruise companies Cunard, Stalauro/MSC and Mano.

The vessel is the 38th cruise ship to be sold for scrap since the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020. Its demolition sale brings the total gross ton capacity removed from the market to 1.51m gt.

The sale also puts Turkey in lead once again in terms of the number of cruise ships recycled. A total of 16 cruise ships with a combined 766,500-gt have gone to Turkey, while India follows closely behind at 15 vessels totalling 545,700-gt.

Pakistan follows at a distant third place with five vessels totalling 184,400-gt. One other small cruise ship was sold for recycling in Mexico but was wrecked before arriving at the yard.

The Danish-built Gold Coast is best known for its long career with Cunard under the name Cunard Princess. The ship was one of a pair the historic British shipping company built for Caribbean cruising during the cruise boom of the 1970s.

Their size and high-density passenger accommodation — they could pack close to 1,000 passengers into their diminutive dimensions — was typical of the many cruise ships that were built during the early to mid 1970s.

Successful sisters

The Cunard Princess and Cunard Countess were touted by Cunard as the most modern, sophisticated ships of their class when first built. Both ships has long and successful careers despite entering service in a very pessimistic market. Photo: Cunard

The Cunard Princess was the last of this breed of first-generation cruise ships and entered service during a severe downturn in the cruise industry. This led to many pundits predicting that it would be the last cruise ship that would ever be built.

Only when the market began to recover in the early 1980s would more cruise ships orders be placed.

Despite the pessimistic predictions at the time of its delivery, the Cunard Princess proved to be very successful and stayed in the Cunard fleet until 1995, when it was sold to Starlauro, the cruising arm of Swiss container giant MSC. Renamed Rhapsody, it would also prove to be a profitable ship for Starlauro, which was rebranded as MSC Cruises in 1996.

The Rhapsody sailed for 14 years, but when the company moved into the realm of large cruise ships, it passed on to Mint, who renamed it Golden Iris for operation by Haifa-based Mano Maritime.

That company would eventually acquire larger tonnage, which led to the Golden Iris being retired from service at the end of 2018. The ship was laid up in the Greek port of Chalkis under the name Gold Club as efforts were made to find a trading buyer.

The pandemic’s devastating effect on the cruise industry destroyed any chance of a small, elderly cruise ships finding a new cruising role, and led to the eventual decision to sell it for recycling.

Sistership Cunard Countess (built 1976) also had a long and successful career, spending two decades under Cunard ownership before moving on to a variety of different owners and operators. Its career came to an abrupt in 2013 when it was destroyed by fire at a shipyard in Chalkis. The wreckage was towed to Aliaga for recycling the following year.