Orient Lines Cancels Maiden Europe Season

November 19, 2008
Two cruise industry publications are reporting that Orient Lines, the classic one-ship outfit that was reborn in 2008, has canceled its maiden Europe season, scheduled to begin in April 2009.

According to Seatrade Insider, the inaugural season is off, but -- as noted in the company's press release -- President and CEO Wayne Heller is "exploring possible options to re-launch our cruise program at a more favorable time in the near future." No specific dates were given.

A second publication, Cruise Week, was not so optimistic, citing sources who've said the line might be shuttered by the end of the week.

The ship was originally scheduled to sail a variety of 11- to 37-night Europe cruises featuring long stays in port as well as several overnights. Folks booked on the 2009 cruises will be issued a refund.

The bad news is not completely unexpected. In October, pricing was revamped for a number of European cruises, i.e. slashed by about 40 percent off original rates. Then, earlier this month, the company laid off 10 full-time employees.

At this point the future of Orient Lines is uncertain.

Orient Lines was reborn in August of this year after being dismantled in 2007 by former owner Star Cruises (who also owns 50 percent of NCL). The former Marco Polo was sold to U.K.-based Transocean Tours. Wayne Heller, founder of Orlando-based travel agency Cruises Only, bought the shipless line and quickly acquired a vessel, the nearly 40-year-old Maxim Gorky. The 24,981-ton, 650-passenger vessel was renamed Marco Polo II, and the plan was to offer destination-intensive itineraries -- similar to those offered by the "old" Orient Lines -- suited to passengers who prefer enrichment and port time over flashy onboard amenities.

Stay tuned.

--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor