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What Happens to Cruise Ships When They Die?

Cruises can be retired after sailing for several decades or experiencing a catastrophic failure.
The ships can still be valuable for its materials or be retrofitted to serve another purpose.
In some cases, ships are outright abandoned because the costs to retrieve them are too high.
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Cruise ships, it turns out, are expensive pieces of equipment to build.
According to The Points Guy, modern cruise ships can cost between $500 million to $900 million.
The Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, which is about 1,187 feet long and took its maiden voyage in 2010, cost about $1.4 billion to make, according to Statista.
That’s why cruise ships are rarely outright abandoned if they’re ever decommissioned or retired due to the ship’s age or, in some cases, catastrophic disasters.
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Oftentimes, these vessels are taken to scrapyards to be dismantled for their valuable parts such as the metal. Materials from a single ship can bring in around $4 million, Business Insider reported in 2021.
When a ship is retired and sent to the scrapyard, it can end up at a ship-breaking facility like Aliag in western Turkey.
There, workers perform the dangerous job of taking apart a ship that once held thousands of passengers.
But sending ships to a breaking facility also comes with costs that can make it less prudent for companies to, for example, retrieve a capsized ship, according to Cruise Hive.
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In one of the more unique cases, the MS World Discoverer, a small German cruise ship built in 1974, struck a reef near the Solomon Islands in April 2000, according to the cruise blog.
The ship was declared a total loss and abandoned in part because of the remote and shallow location of the wreckage.
But another reason why the ship had to be abandoned was because the Solomon Islands were experiencing civil unrest. In June 2000, a militant organization overthrew the prime minister during a coup d’état.
According to Cruise Hive, a local tribe shot arrows at the salvage crew sometime later that year. Thus, the MS World Discoverer remains near the islands to rot.
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In other cases, a cruise ship can be given a second life as a tourist attraction, hotel, or even a temporary hospital in emergency cases, Business Insider previously reported.
The most well-known example is the Queen Mary, which sailed between 1936 to 1967 before it made its final stop in Long Beach, California, and remains at the port to this day.
The ship has since been repurposed into a tourist attraction and hotel with 347 staterooms and suites.
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when cruises and other travel industries came to a screeching halt, some ships also were used as a “floating hospital” for sick patients.

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