The cruise ship Arkona on a Baltic cruise in 1989. Photo via wikipedia

Saudi Cruiseship Mega-Yacht Conversion Project Scrapped As Economy Turns

John Konrad
Total Views: 4839
July 26, 2022

This year has been tough for the world’s biggest yachts. Earlier this month, Rotterdam said it wouldn’t take apart a bridge to let Jeff Bezos sail his new 417-foot mega sailing yacht out of the shipyard. Now plans have been scrapped for converting a 539-foot cruise ship into a private yacht.

The yacht in question is the Pearl II, a passenger ship that was built in Germany in 1981. The ship was built in 1981 by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft in Hamburg. It was originally ordered by the German company Hadag Cruise Line, but was sold to the South African company Safmarine because it wasn’t profitable enough.

In 1985, it was sold to East Germany and renamed the Arkona. The vessel was used to give favoured communist party officials cruises for part of the year. The rest of the year, it was chartered to western operators. After the fall of the Berlin Wall she bounced around several cruise lines until 2019 when she was sold to Aqua Explorer Holdings, renamed the Pearl II, and sailed to the Greek port of Perama.

2013 Photo of the Pearl II by Ivan T. via Wikipedia

“Whomever was behind Aqua Explorer has never commented on their plans,” writes Jonathan Boonzaier for Tradewinds. “But it quickly became known in the cruise and yachting sectors that the company was controlled by wealthy Saudi Arabian interests, via Greek intermediaries, who intended to convert the Pearl II into an ultra-large private yacht.”

If she were to be converted into a private yacht, she would be the world’s second largest, after the 531-foot Azzam that was launched in 2013 and delivered to Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the former president of the United Arab Emirates.

The Pearl II has been sold to a ship recycling firm in Turkey.

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