Spirit of Oceanus Update, 8:50 p.m. EDT: The press release from Cruise West that was to be made available today never materialized. Nor have our contacts responded to multiple requests for comment. We'll provide an update as soon as we obtain more information.

(4 p.m. EDT) -- After months of financial woes, Seattle-based Cruise West, the small-ship line best known for its Alaska cruises, appears to have new owners. In addition, we've received an unconfirmed report that the line has canceled Spirit of Oceanus' epic 335-night world cruise, which departed in March and was scheduled to run until February 2011. Cruise West has yet to verify that the world cruise has indeed been cut short.

A recorded message on the company's "emergency line" offers scant details:

"Hello, you have reached Cruise West. Only the Spirit of Oceanus is impacted at this point. All other cruises are operating normally. We are in the middle of restructuring the company with new owners and therefore have temporarily suspended taking new bookings. A press release will be made available later today, September 7." As of press time, the release has yet to be issued.

Cruise Critic reader Tammy Hinshaw, who is currently onboard Spirit of Oceanus for part of cruising's longest-ever 335-night "Voyages of the Great Explorers" (VOGE) sailing, tipped us off via e-mail earlier today. "Spirit of Oceanus has been sold ... and the passengers (including myself) are being put ashore at St. John's, Newfoundland," wrote Hinshaw. "So far, we know very little; all we've been told is that the ship has been sold and the around-the-world cruise is over, as of tomorrow morning." Hinshaw was told that information regarding passenger compensation would be forthcoming.

Cruise Critic has made multiple attempts to contact representatives from Cruise West -- all of which have gone unanswered.

That Cruise West was struggling financially -- and looking to unload Spirit of Oceanus -- has been in the news for some time. In July, we learned that the line had secured a $1.5 million loan and was reportedly seeking additional financing via investment bankers, while also exploring the possibility of selling Spirit of Oceanus (then leasing it back from the buyer). Steve Faber, a regular Cruise Critic contributor who sailed one of Spirit of Oceanus' world cruise segments in July, reported that the ship was only "half full."

We'll let you know as soon as we have more information.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor

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