April 22, 2003
Regal Cruises, the one-ship line that operates the venerable Regal Empress, ran into a snag last weekend when the ship was seized by U.S. Marshals in Port Manatee, Florida. That naturally meant cancellation of the ship's weekend cruise and the 800-plus passengers who were in the process of boarding were forced to disembark. This week's voyage a ten day Panama Canal sailing was also canceled. The ship, built in 1953, was impounded because the company was arrears to an engine repair firm that had done $750,000 worth of work on Regal Empress this winter and had not been paid. The story, however, is a little bit more complicated than the usual cruise line financial woes. Earlier this year, Regal Empress, according to company officials, was filled up with "bad gas" that, ultimately and gradually destroyed its engines (and caused a handful of slower-than-usual sailings, not to mention two cancellations during the repair process). A company spokesman, who calls the contentious issue "a triangle," says that Regal Cruises was caught unaware when the engine repair company was issued the injunction (in order for Federal Marshals to receive permission to impound a vessel the plaintiff must get a court order). However, it does seem that progress is being made between the two companies. The spokesman is confident that Regal Empress will be freed up in time to depart on its next scheduled cruise -- a four day sailing to Mexico that leaves on May 1. In the meantime, passengers on the two canceled trips have been offered a replacement cruise of any length and also, just announced today, can file for a refund.