Royal Caribbean Group-owned Silversea Cruises and Celebrity Cruises have found buyers for two expedition cruiseships that were put on the sales market last January.

Both vessels, Silversea’s 4,200-gt, 100-passenger Silver Galapagos (built 1990) and Celebrity’s 1,600-gt, 48-passenger Xperience (built 1998), were earmarked for sale prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus as they were due to be replaced by newbuildings later in 2020.

Back then it was anticipated such ships would fetch high prices.

Each was owned via an Ecuadorian-registered entity and flew the country’s flag to facilitate their operating in the cabotage-protected Galapagos archipelago cruise trade.

Brokers report that a deal to sell the Silver Galapagos has just been tied up. The identity of its buyer remains unknown.

IHS Ships Register indicates the ship was reflagged in the Bahamas ahead of its sale.

The Silver Galapagos is one of a series of eight small cruiseships that formed the original fleet of the now defunct Renaissance Cruises. Built at smaller Italian shipyards, they were sold on to other owners after the company built a new fleet of 32,000-gt cruiseships in France a decade later.

The ships proved popular with expedition cruise operators and high net worth individuals who converted three of them into private yachts.

Silversea was asking $20m for the ship when it was first put on the market, which brokers thought reasonable in the pre-coronavirus era. But as the virus wreaked havoc on the cruise industry, that price rapidly plummeted.

Some brokers claimed that the asking price had fallen to as low as $3.5m by last December.

Boutique-style cruise venture

Celebrity Cruises small expedition cruiseship Xperience was sold to Emerald Blue Cruises in December 2020. Photo: Carl Brandes/MarineTraffic

Celebrity's Xperience was sold in December to Emerald Blue Cruises of Panama, according to IHS records.

It has been flagged in Panama and renamed the Emerald Dream.

Industry observers believe that this entity has Greek backers who will launch a new boutique-style cruise operation.

The ship had a reported asking price of $2.5m as of last September, but brokers said it was unlikely that the ship would have sold for that much. VesselsValue estimates it is worth only $350,000.

Silversea has replaced the Silver Galapagos with the 6,400-gt, 102-passenger Silver Origin (built 2020), while Celebrity has replaced the Experience with the 5,900-gt, 100-passenger Celebrity Flora (built 2020).

Both expedition cruiseships, purpose built for the Galapagos trade, were constructed at De Hoop Lobith’s shipyard in the Netherlands but have yet to enter commercial service.