Review of Pullmantur
Pullmantur Cruises is a Spanish passenger shipping company headquartered in Madrid. It started operations in the late 1990s as an offshoot of Madrid-based namesake travel agency "Pullmantur". Through its parent company, Pullmantur Cruises was purchased in 2006 by RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd).
In 2017, the company served over 1/3 (34%) of all Spanish cruise ship passengers. Its share on the local market in 2017 increased by 6,5% (over 2016). Spain's cruising market as annual capacity is estimated at around 0,5 million passengers. The most popular on the Spanish market cruise travel destinations offered by Pullmantur are the Mediterranean, Baltic (Norwegian Fjords) and Canary Islands. In the Canaries, the company is the largest operator by vessel capacity and annual number of scheduled itineraries.
Pullmantur offers high-quality, high-value cruising with a strong Spanish-Mediterranean flair. Company's hold on the Spanish cruise market started when the founded in 1971 Madrid travel agency Pullmantur, chartered ms Seawind Crown (Premier Cruises) in the late 1990's.
Pullmantur experienced moderate success. When Premier went bankrupt in 2000, the company purchased that line's biggest and most modern ship, ms Oceanic, and established its own cruise line. In 2001 Pullmantur started operating cruises out of Barcelona. At that time, few could imagine the impact the new cruise line would have on cruising in Spain and cruise industry as a whole.
Spain was just beginning to find out cruising in 2001, mostly on foreign cruise vessels, with many departing from foreign ports. Pullmantur Cruises' establishment, with weekly departures of Oceanic from Barcelona, pushed Spanish cruising into overdrive. With all-inclusive fares, quality product and smart marketing, the line had an effect in Spain such as Carnival Cruise Line in the United States. Pullmantur was making cruising popular and affordable to the masses.
The expansion of the company came fast. In 2002 it purchased the famed "Love Boat" Pacific Princess from Princess Cruises. In 2003 Pullmantur bought another new ship, Holiday Dream (originally Hapag-Lloyd's ms Europa and ex-Star Cruises' SuperStar Aries). After buying three cruise ships of its own, in 2004 Pullmantur chartered R Five from the creditors of bankrupt Renaissance Cruises. The ship was marketed as Blue Dream. R Six, marketed as Blue Star, was added in 2005.
R Five left Pullmantur later in 2005 to become Oceania Cruises' Nautica. Pullmantur purchased R Six and named her Blue Dream (the marketing name assigned previously to R Five). Delphin Seereisen, the charterer of R Seven, had meanwhile gone bankrupt, and in 2006 that ship was also bought by Pullmantur Cruises and renamed Blue Moon. The same year, in its final acquisition, Pullmantur purchased Pacific Sky from P&O Cruises Australia, formerly Princess Cruises' Sky Princess. The vessel was renamed Sky Wonder.
A few months later, it was announced that Pullmantur, including its airline and tour operator sister companies, had been scooped up by the world's second largest cruise line, RCCL Royal Caribbean. Now, Pullmantur had the backing of a much bigger, wealthier company to help go on with its expansion. RCCL received a strong presence in the European cruise market.
In 2016, RCCL sold 51% of its shares in to Springwater Capital LLC (Spanish / Madrid-based private equity firm, is taking a 51% stake in CDF (Croisieres de France) and Pullmantur. RCCL now has 49% stake in the new CDP-Pullmantur joint venture company. RCCL also retains full ownership of the cruise vessels and aircraft operated by the two brands, which were leased into the joint venture.
Pullmantur cruising experience
- Pullmantur Cruises is the biggest Spain-based cruise line. It appeals mainly to Spanish passengers, even though voyages on Pullmantur vessels are also sold by travel operators out of the Spanish-speaking market.
- Like most major cruise lines, Pullmantur attracts a wide selection of passengers, though naturally on its cruises they are mainly Spanish and Brazilian (during winter months). However, you may find passengers of all types and ages. There may also be several non-Spanish-speaking guests from Canada or Northern Europe.
- The primary language used onboard is Spanish, but many staff members speak English, as well. To accommodate international cruisers, announcements are made in both Spanish and English. English-speaking passengers who look to immerse themselves in Spanish culture will definitely enjoy voyages with Pullmantur.
- The currency used on Pullmantur ships may vary by itinerary. Typically, in the Baltic and Mediterranean, the onboard currency is the euro, while in the Caribbean the US dollar is used.
- Most of Pullmantur ships offer an "all-inclusive" product. Some extras like brand alcoholic drinks, are included in cruise price. However, as of October 2014, alcoholic beverage packages are sold separately. Currently, Pullmantur's prices include tea, coffee, water and juice.
- Most ships of the line do not operate cruises for Pullmantur during northern hemisphere winter season. Then, they are either laid up or chartered to other cruise lines, including the Brazillian Viagens CVC.
- Onboard guests will enjoy a cuisine specially designed for European palettes. The staff service philosophy is a bit more reserved than whattravelers might find on a North America cruise line. On European itineraries, Pullmantur restaurants follow the European custom of offering dinner later in the evening.
Pullmantur fly-cruise deals
For 2018 (April 23 through October 29), Pullmantur Cruceros signed agreement with Iberia Airlines (Spain) to secure over 90,000 plane seats for cruise passengers booked with "flight and cruise" deals. Iberia flights connect the ships' homeports and the passenger's home country.
The Iberia airline's regular flights connect Spain (Madrid and Barcelona) with port cities in Italy (Trieste), Greece (Athens), Germany (Rostock), Finland (Helsinki) and Norway (Trondheim). In these cruise ports, Pullmantur offers both embarkation and disembarkation on itineraries in Baltic Sea (Scandinavia and Russia, Norwegian Fjords), Greek Isles (out of Piraeus-Athens) and Adriatic Sea (out of Venice).
Most Pullmantur cruise itineraries can be booked with air-included cabin rates. Booking "flight and cruise" deals allows passengers to check luggage at the Spanish airports and receive it in their staterooms.
Pullmantur - CDF (Croisieres de France)
In early 2017, Pullmantur Group closed the offices of its subsidiary company Croisieres de France (CDF) in Paris, France. The decision was made under the company's new leadership (Richard Vogel, Pullmantur Group's president and CEO) and for refocusing all efforts on the cruising travel markets in Spain and Caribbean (Latin America). Since 2017, the company has not one France-dedicated vessel.
Bookings on both former CDF ships (Horizon, Zenith) are currently handled by the company's office in Madrid. Also changed were Pullmantur's Northern European itineraries, which previously included departures from Calais (France). The new Baltic Sea departure port is now Rostock (Warnemunde) Germany, due to more efficient flights and transfers from Spain.
CDF started operations in 2008 with the MS Blu de France (since 2011 operated by Saga Cruises as Saga Sapphire). Blu de France ship was replaced by MV Horizon in 2012. In 2014, to the CDF fleet was added MV Zenith.
Itinerary of Pullmantur
Pullmantur (officially "Pullmantur Crociere") is currently the largest cruise line based in Spain. The company markets to Spanish passengers mainly, although voyages on Pullmantur ships are also sold outside Spanish-speaking world. The line was virtually unknown out of its native country until in 2006 Royal Caribbean announced it had purchased the Spanish line company.
Pullmantur cruise itinerary changes
Pullmantur Cruises is an RCCL-owned company (part of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd). The line operates the following ships:
- ms Majesty (1992) previously operated by Royal Caribbean as "Majesty of the Seas" (until 2018)
- ms Monarch (1991) was previously owned by RCI as "Monarch of the Seas" (until 2013). The ship operates year-round Southern Caribbean cruises leaving from Colon Panama, Cartagena Colombia, Willemstad Curacao and Oranjestad Aruba.
- ms Sovereign (1987) was owned by RCI as "Sovereign of the Seas" (until 2008). The ship operates Western Mediterranean cruises (leaving from Barcelona) and in South America (Brazil, from homeports Santos and Rio de janeiro).
- mv Horizon (1990) - the ship operates in Europe (year-round) offering Mediterranean cruises leaving from Athens (Greece). The ship also operates Red Sea cruises from Dubai, with call ports Abu Dhabi, Khasab, Fujairah, Muscat.
- mv Zenith (1992) - the ship operates in Northern Europe (on Norwegian Fjords cruises), Western Mediterranean (out of Barcelona), Canary Islands (homeports Tenerife and Gran Canaria) and in Caribbean leaving from Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic).
Pullmantur and the company Wamos Air made history on June 18, 2016, when the aircraft company landed in Rostock, Germany, a Boeing 747 loaded with 500+ passengers and 19 crew. The cruise passengers were transferred to Pullmantur Monarch for a Northern European itinerary. The aircraft became the biggest to land in Rostock since the US President George Bush landed there in 2006 on an "Air Force One" plane. That night the large Boeing 747 headed back to Madrid Spain full of Pullmantur, cruise passengers. For 2016 there are planned a total of 7 such turnarounds in Rostock.
In July 2016 Pullmantur announced that during winter 2016-2017 the Horizon ship will operate 7-day Canary Islands itineraries leaving round-trip from Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The new itinerary program started on November 26, 2016, and had a total of 16 scheduled departures. Passengers visited the islands La Palma, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, as well as Agadir Morocco. The expected passenger capacity was around 25,000, with a total economic impact for the Canaries over EUR 12 million. During winter 2015-2016, MV Horizon offered Caribbean itineraries. Pullmantur Cruises never had a winter itinerary program in Europe before.
While refocusing on brand’s original market, Spain, France and Latin America are also regarded core markets for Pullmantur. For summer 2017 and winter season 2017-2018, due to higher demand in Latin America the company had no dedicated ship for the French market. In France, Pullmantur continued to sell under the CDF brand, but re-focused on the Latin American / Spanish markets.
For winter season 2018-2019, Pullmantur homeported the Horizon ship in the Middle East for roundtrips from Dubai UAE (overnight stay in port prior departure). The 7-day itinerary program included as call ports the UAE's ports Abu Dhabi, Khasab and Fujairah, as well as Muscat (Oman). Prices started from EUR 590 pp (double occupancy). During 2018-2019, the Zenith ship was in Canary Islands, MS Monarch - in Caribbean, MS Sovereign - in South America.
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