Is Festival Demise Imminent?

March 11, 2004

A U.K.-based shipping trade publication is reporting that Festival Cruises has failed to successfully negotiate a re-financing solution with debt-holders and that the company's three most contemporary vessels -- Mistral, European Vision and European Stars -- will be sold at auction.

If true -- a spokeswoman from First European Cruises, Festival's U.S. marketing arm, "can neither confirm nor deny" -- the auctioning off of the three ships would mean the end of the Festival fleet.

Festival had, earlier this year, divested itself of older vessels such as Azur and Bolero; those two ships were sold this week at auction in Gibraltar. A buyer and price was not revealed.

Last week, we reported that Festival/First European, whose cruises on European Vision, European Stars and Mistral had been halted in February due to court-related orders, had waffled on a new date for resumption of sailings. Last month, the company had actually announced a starting date for those ships, saying that "favorable legal rulings ... have cleared the way for the company to continue moving forward." Alas, the dates came and went.

The U.S.-based spokeswoman said, at the time, that "We are still waiting for confirmed dates for the resumption of service and expect to get that information shortly."