According to reports on a Portuguese news channel, four of the five-ship fleet will be sold to a Portuguese businessman, Rui Alegre.
The deal is backed by the bank TSF Montepio and includes the purchase of the ships Funchal, Athena, Princess Danae and Arion. Funchal has been in dry dock in Lisbon, pending refurbishments, since October. The latter three were all ‘arrested' -- or detained -- for non-payment of fuel costs and crew wages in September and October last year. The ships are still owned by Classic International Cruises, a Portuguese company with Greek owners.
The 17,000-ton, 580-passenger Athena was a popular ship with U.K. and Australian cruisers, making an annual voyage from Marseille to Australia in November, before spending the Australian summer season Down Under. Its arrest -- and last-minute cancellation of the Australia cruise -- left at least 5,000 passengers out of pocket.
U.K.-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages recently stepped into the breach left by Athena, announcing the launch of a UK to Australia voyage on the 620-passenger, 20,000-ton Astor, which will join CMV's fleet in November 2013.
According to reports, the 500 workers on the Classic International ships have not been paid a salary since October.
--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor