Two Crystal Cruises ships seized in Bahamas over unpaid bills

The Crystal Symphony

Two luxury cruise ships that sought refuge in Bahamian waters because of unpaid fuel bills are no longer on the lam.

Authorities in the Bahamas seized the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity Friday, days after one of the ships joined its sister in Bimini amid a financial collapse at its parent company.

Local media outlets reported that the ships were seized off Freeport about 9 p.m. Friday. No passengers were on board when the ships were seized. The vessels are in the custody of the admiralty marshal, said Stephen Turnquest, a Bahamas-based attorney for a fuel supplier that is suing Crystal Cruises.

Crystal announced in January that it would suspend ocean cruises through the end of April after Genting Hong Kong, its parent company, filed in Bermuda to dissolve the company on Jan. 18.

Last month, a federal judge in Miami issued an arrest warrant for Crystal Symphony after a lawsuit alleged Crystal Cruises and a related operator did not pay fuel bills reaching about $3.4 million. Instead of returning to Miami as scheduled after a two-week voyage, the vessel high-tailed it to Bimini with about 700 crew and guests on board.

A little more than a week later, Crystal Serenity skipped Aruba, where its aborted world cruise was scheduled to end, and also headed to Bimini. The cruise line said the port in Aruba would not let it dock. In both cases, passengers were transported to Fort Lauderdale by ferry.

The fuel supplier, Peninsula Petroleum Far East, then sued the cruise company in the Bahamas, Turnquest said. “Whether the ships are going to Aruba or anywhere else, they would have presumably taken the same approach,” he said.

Turnquest said the ship’s owners have 14 days from the date of the ships’ arrest to contest the proceedings. In the meantime, he said the cruise company still has the responsibility to maintain the ships and crew. He said the best-case scenario would seem to be for the company to arrange financing, pay off its debt and regain control of the ships.

“From a business standpoint, I would have thought that the ship owners would hasten to secure their release so that it doesn’t become a fire sale proposition,” Turnquest said.

Quoting the acting port controller, the Nassau Guardian reported that nonessential crew members were being sent back to their home countries. The Washington Post could not reach the port official Monday.

Crystal Cruises spokesman Vance Gulliksen said the company could not comment on “pending legal matters.” He did not provide details on what the next steps would be for crew members.

“The officers and crew on board are being well cared for and staying in single accommodations some of which are guest staterooms,” he said in a statement. “We are making sure they are comfortable and able to enjoy the various amenities on board. Crew members have been paid all wages due and we are meeting and exceeding all contractual obligations.”

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