TUI Cruises, a joint venture between TUI Group and Royal Caribbean, will integrate the full four-ship Marella fleet and brand into its cruise company.
Marella Cruises will remain a separate brand, but will become part of the TUI Cruises corporate entity, similar to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which was sold last year by TUI Group for more than $1.5 billion.
The move is part of a wider program of asset sales by TUI Group as it seeks to become a tourism specialist company, focusing on marketing, rather than direct operation of properties and assets such as cruise ships.
The TUI Group this week sold 21 hotels from its portfolio of 100 to the Spanish hotelier RIU for $700 million.
“We are separating hotel management and holiday experience from property ownership, as we announced at the end of 2019,” TUI strategy director Peter Krüger said.
The hotels will remain bookable through TUI, but the group will no longer be involved in the management or development of properties.
It has followed the same approach with the Marella Cruises brand, which previously existed as Thomson Cruises, a subsidiary of the Thomson travel group. Thomson Cruises became Marella Cruises in 2017 when Thomson was acquired by TUI and became TUI UK.
Marella Cruises currently operates four ships targeting the British cruise market: Marella Explorer, Marella Explorer 2, Marella Discovery and Marella Discovery 2.
The ships were purchased from Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean, and older tonnage, such as Marella Celebration and Marella Dream, was sold out of the fleet.
Marella Cruises is reportedly shopping around for a fifth ship to add to the fleet, but has not disclosed which cruise line or ship it might consider buying from.
With a spate of vessels having been put up for sale due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cruise industry, the cruise line will have a wide range of vessels from which to choose.
Marella has cruised regularly to and from Dubai and other ports in the Arabian Gulf over the years, but with the cruise line only just resuming operations from the UK, its wider international itineraries for the coming months and years have not yet been released.