MIAMI — A second ship from the embattled Crystal Cruises line has cut short its trip and offloaded passengers in the Bahamas as the company faces a legal dispute over millions of dollars in fuel bills.
The itinerary changes for the Crystal Serenity followed a judge’s order last month to seize the Crystal Symphony if it enters U.S. waters.
The Crystal Serenity was originally scheduled to take about 200 passengers on a three-and-a-half month expedition, but two days after leaving Miami on Jan. 17, the company announced it would suspend operations through April. The ship has canceled several port calls since then.
Passengers were told the ship would end the cruise in Aruba, but then local officials did not allow the ship to dock last weekend, so the ship was diverted to Bimini, a company spokesman said. The cruise line then ferried the passengers to Fort Lauderdale and they were taken to hotel rooms Monday night.
The passengers will be reimbursed for any applicable airline change fees, said Crystal Cruises spokesman Vance Gulliksen.
“There are simply no words to express our deep regret and disappointment,” the company’s statement said.
The ship that had a seizure order, Crystal Symphony, was supposed to return to Miami on Jan. 22, but instead changed its course to Bimini, also offloading and ferrying passengers to Fort Lauderdale.
A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit that accuses the cruise line of failing to pay $4.6 million for fuel issued the warrant for the Crystal Symphony on Jan. 20. The maritime order authorizes U.S. Marshals to board a vessel and take charge once it approaches the U.S. coast.
In the complaint filed in a Miami federal court last month, Peninsula Petroleum Far East lists sales totaling $2.2 million of fuel to Crystal Serenity that were not paid. Gulliksen said there is no warrant against the Crystal Serenity.
Some passengers on the voyage, which would have ended in California in late May, said they were glad to leave.
“I’m delighted to be off that ship,” said Barry Shulman, 75, of Las Vegas.
The company announced it was suspending operations through late April to “provide Crystal’s management team with an opportunity to evaluate the current state of business and examine various options moving forward.”
The cruise line’s parent company, Genting Hong Kong, has been struggling with the effects of the pandemic on its shipping and cruise businesses. Last month, one of its shipyards filed for bankruptcy protection in Germany.
By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON The Associated Press