Cruise Ship Swap Over Unpaid Debts

October 30, 2012
(Updated: 12:30 p.m., Oct. 30) -- Editor's note: Cruise & Maritime Voyages has issued the following statement: "Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) wishes to clarify that, contrary to speculative media reports circulating in Australia, the company has been unable to assist in providing suitable alternative tonnage in time to operate the scheduled summer 2012/13 cruises of the arrested Athena. Confidential discussions were opened with Passat Kreuzfahrten to examine the feasibility of a charter of their 17,000 grt Delphin and operate a summer cruise programme from Fremantle and Adelaide to provide a viable option for the Athena passengers. Negotiations were at an advanced stage but the Owners of Delphin ultimately concluded that, with a scheduled docking period to be undertaken in November, confirmation of a timely delivery of the vessel to undertake the required southbound voyage from Europe to Australia could not be guaranteed. The discussions were therefore terminated amicably. (10:28 a.m. EDT) -- Classic International Cruises Australia has been forced to use another ship to replace the impounded MV Athena for its Australia Cruise season.

German ship, 16,214-ton, 520-passenger MS Delphin has been chartered by CIC Australia to replace the 640-passenger Athena, which was due to set sail from Marseille, France, on November 12th to Fremantle, Western Australia. Athena, which is owned and operated by CIC in Europe, is currently impounded in Marseille over unpaid debts.

However, Delphin has 30 fewer cabins than Athena and it is not clear at this stage how the line will accommodate those passengers due to cruise from Marseille in two weeks' time. Athena was due to operate seven cruises out of Fremantle and four out of Adelaide over the coming months. The company will operate an extra three cruises to accommodate those who cannot get on the cruise they have booked, the company confirmed.

In an odd twist, CIC Australia is not affected by the events in Europe, and the Delphin is being chartered on its behalf by UK-based cruise line Cruise & Maritime Voyages, according to a report in the Western Australian.

A spokesman for CMV refused to comment on the piece, but added that “there would be more news on Wednesday”.

CMV operates Marco Polo and Ocean Countess, and will take delivery of Discovery next year to replace Ocean Countess.

This statement appeared on CIC's Web Site today:

“With the news that Delphin will be replacing Athena's Australian 2012/13 Season some of the information on this web site is no longer factually correct. This web site will now be undergoing a period of reconstruction. CIC Australia is currently loading the reservations system and commencing reberthing of the 7,000 bookings for the 2012/13 season. Because of the work load we will be communicating via email and not via our normal reservation telephone system. Additional staff are in the office to handle your enquiry and answer all emails.

"We sincerely appreciate the support being received from our loyal customers and Australian travel agents. This message will be updated every 24 hours. CIC Australian Team.”

Three of the five ships in the CIC fleet have been stranded overseas for unpaid debts and crew wages for a number of weeks while negotiations continue with the Montepio Bank in Portugal.

Cruise Critic members -- frustrated by the lack of information coming from CIC -- have been posting on the Cruise Critic message boards for weeks hoping for news.

Melissa mc is typical:

"I have decided today, knowing that I will probably not see my airfares again, the best thing to do will be head to Europe and hope for the best."

Jo Jo Zep wrote:

"Yep that's what we are doing leaving it to the chance that it might go, that is all we can do. Awful though – a long awaited holiday and first big cruise – the stress is really spoiling the anticipation of the holiday. As we have no notification of cancellation we cannot risk not going to Paris. We will not stay in Europe if [the cruise is] cancelled as it is winter and we are not organized to do anything else."

CIC Australia managing director Grant Hunter told the Western Australian:

"Classic have not made this decision lightly, however having explored all avenues, we together with Government authorities and industry partners felt it prudent to substitute Athena now rather than hold out to the last minute and which may have seen some of our guests stranded in Europe,' he said.

The Delphin usually operates in Europe and was only available because it does not sail over the winter season. The ship is owned by Hansa Kreuzfahrten. It was built in Finland 1975 and refurbished in 1993.

Mr Hunter said the ship is newer than the Athena, has a similar gross tonnage, a greater space per passenger ratio and has the same Berlitz star rating. It has a pool with a pool bar, two other bars, a restaurant with a sea view, a disco, a lounge, internet facilities, fitness centre and sauna, but no casino. Mr Hunter said the company would work with customers who do not want to travel on the new ship on a case by case basis.

The Athena has been operating out of Western Australia for nine years and has a loyal clientele.

--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor