Royal Caribbean Cruises has sold its 50% share in Island Cruises to First Choice Holidays for just over £30 million.


First Choice, part of TUI Travel, already held the other 50% interest in the three-star cruiseline in a joint venture with Royal Caribbean that pre-dated its merger with Thomson Holidays last year.


Under the terms of the deal TUI Travel takes ownership of Island Cruises’ Island Escape ship, while Royal Caribbean retains the other cruiseline’s other ship Island Star.


Royal Caribbean said it now plans to focus on its Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises brands in the UK and will redeploy Island Star to Pullmantur Cruises, its Spanish cruise brand.


Royal Caribbean chairman and chief executive Richard Fain said: “We thank TUI for their efforts and cooperation thoughout the life of the joint venture. Island Cruises has been a rewarding investment for us, but over the past year our priorities have shifted.”


Under the agreement of the Thomson/ First Choice merger, TUI Travel could not keep its interest in Island Cruises and operate Thomson Cruises.


Island Escape will continue to offer cruises for summer 2009 but TUI Travel admitted it is reviewing the Island Cruises’ brand for the longer term future. No decision has yet been made.


TUI Travel managing director Dermot Blastland said: “Our main focus has been resolving the acquisition of Royal Caribbean’s half of the joint venture. Clearly we will review our cruise business and what is best; that may mean keeping two brands or going to one brand.”


Both Island and Thomson Cruises are three-star cruiselines.