About 460 passengers have had their lives stopped and placed on hold, when the cruise ship they were on was seized in Madeira, the Portugeuse archipelago off the coast of Africa. on April 1. Passengers say they thought at first it was an April Fool's joke.
The cruise ship MV Van Gogh, left the port of Falmouth, United Kingdom on a 93-day, £9,000-£22,000 [$12,000-$44,000US] around the world cruise on January 4, 2008. The cruise was almost canceled when the prior owners, Travelscope went into bankruptcy receivership.
Debts owed, Van Gogh Cruise Line Ltd, took over operation of the cruise ship, according to a press release submitted to Cruise Bruise by Van Gogh Cruise Line Ltd, which is based in Cheltenham and a subsidiary of the Dutch-owned Club Cruise, and all was suppose to be saved.
Then, when the ship pulled into Port of Funchal in the Portuguese isles the ship was seized for back debts.
While the ship was due back in Falmouth on April 5, it began to look like that would not be possible. Some passengers need to be back to work on Monday, April 7th and are concerned if the ship will get them back home on time.
The captain announced to the crew and passengers that the Portuguese government had seized the ship pending a resolution to the problem and that the passengers could leave.
The only problem with this, is at this point in time, if passengers leave, they are on their own to find their way back home. Otherwise, they are held hostage, in limbo, with their ride dead in the water.
Passengers say the captain will update them again on Thursday, April 3 as to whether the ship will continue, or not.
The company response is, ""Currently Club Cruise’s lawyers are liaising with the authorities in an effort to prevent further delay by allowing this matter to be handled on return to Falmouth, to minimize further distress to our passengers. However, the administrators have so far refused to allow this."
Mark Horwood, managing director of Van Gogh Cruise Line, said: "Unfortunately today there was a technicality in terms of a claim that was lodged yesterday, late in the day as the courts were closing in Madeira, and it's taken some time to unravel out.
"We're hopefully nearly there. Also the passengers themselves have put forward a petition which they've all signed this evening, which we're sending over to Abta (Association of British Travel Agents) to get them to support the release of the vessel."
The dispute centers around a claim by administrators that they are owed £2 million.
This dispute has been going on since late December 2007 and has now come to a head, with passengers aboard. It should have been settled before it became a problem for passengers.
Wikipedia says "Due to difficulties in acquiring a membership in the Association of British Travel Agents, Van Gogh Cruises were forced to suspend operations in April 2008".
Cruise Bruise has confirmed that all summer bookings have been cancelled because without the ABTA membership, there is no insurance to cover passengers. Van Gogh is suppose to contact those who booked their summer cruises and offer them the fall cruises as a replacment.
A spokesperson for ABTA confirmed that it had rejected the line's application on the grounds that some directors had worked for Travelscope when it went into receivership, making Van Gogh Cruises a high risk. Meanwhile, a local court will decide when Van Gogh will be leaving port.
UPDATE: April 3, 2008 13:58 hours CST: Gerard van Leest, managing director of Club Cruise, said he had been told by his lawyers that "the administrators have withdrawn their detention and decided to let the ship continue its voyage to Falmouth".
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