Cruise West Remains Silent on New Ownership, Canceled Cruises and Suspension of New Bookings

September 8, 2010

Spirit of Oceanus
(4:12 p.m. EDT) -- Has Cruise West been sold ... or not? A day after we first reported that Seattle-based Cruise West had been taken over by new owners, frozen all new bookings and allegedly canceled Spirit of Oceanus' epic 335-night world cruise mid-voyage, representatives from the company remain silent.

The recorded message on Cruise West's main phone line has been updated from yesterday afternoon with two additional pieces of information. First, it now claims that "Cruise West has not been sold." Second, it notes that the Saturday departures of two of the line's ships, Spirit of Endeavor from Seattle and Spirit of '98 from Portland, will operate as planned. No additional details are provided regarding the new owners (and non-sale) or the rest of the fleet's upcoming departures. A number of Cruise West's ships operate only in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and finish their seasons in November at the latest.

As it did yesterday, the recorded message also states that the company has new owners and is currently undergoing restructuring. In an e-mail to industry publication Seatrade Insider, Cruise West's Chairman and Managing Director Dick West also proclaimed, "We have NOT sold the company, and our cruises from Seattle and Portland are departing as planned." He promised to provide further information this morning, but we still have not heard any updates.

Cruise Critic reader Tammy Hinshaw, who was onboard Spirit of Oceanus for part of cruising's longest-ever 335-night "Voyages of the Great Explorers" (VOGE) sailing, posted on Cruise Critic's Facebook page earlier today. "Folks, it's official: I was on the ship, they disembarked everyone in St. John's, Newfoundland this morning, and the SOO is scheduled to leave by 1 p.m. with the buyer's agent onboard." Again, Cruise West has yet to respond to multiple requests for comment. A photo of Spirit of Oceanus remains on the Cruise West homepage.

Cruise West's financial struggles have been public 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). In a second story published yesterday, Seatrade also reported that Dietmar Wertanzl, Cruise West's former chairman and CEO had tendered his resignation on August 30. The news had gone under the radar for a week, and Wertanzl is still listed as an executive on Cruise West's Web site.

Stay tuned.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor