The Crystal Symphony left Miami on January 8, as scheduled, for a two-week cruise. On the way back, things took an unexpected turn.
The ship was due to arrive in Miami on Saturday, but halfway through, a US federal judge ordered the cruise ship impounded following a lawsuit over unpaid fuel bills. The ship changed course for Bimini, Bahamas, according to a cruise tracker, rather than sailing through the clutches of federal authorities.
Cruise passengers were given an extra night of accommodation and on Sunday the passengers were taken by ferry to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Crystal Cruises said in a statement. The ferry ride, the company added, was “uncomfortable due to bad weather”.
“This cruise ending was not the conclusion of our customers’ vacations that we originally planned,” the company said.
Steven Fales, 51, an actor and playwright, was on a cruise with a couple of friends “hoping the pandemic would end and trying to do something adventurous”. The adventure came to an abrupt end when they learned that the cruise was rerouted.
“It’s just sad to see the pandemic kill it off like it was a Broadway show that opened too soon,” Mr Fales said on Sunday night.
After arriving in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, Mr. Fales took a rideshare to a hotel in Miami, where he will stay before flying to Los Angeles and then returning home to Palm Springs, Calif. Mr Fales said while the change in plans was unexpected, he sympathized with the ship’s crew, who seemed uncertain about the future of their jobs.
“This crew treated us like royalty through the tears of losing their jobs,” he said. “They’re all heartbroken, and it was just devastating.”
About 300 people have been transferred to Port Everglades, a spokesperson for the cruise line said. The number of people on board was unclear, but the ship can accommodate up to 848 passengers, with one staff member for every 1.7 passengers, according to the cruise line.
The change of course came after a U.S. judge on Thursday ordered the vessel impounded as part of a lawsuit filed against Crystal Cruises over unpaid fuel. Peninsula Petroleum Far East filed a lawsuit in federal court in South Florida on Wednesday against Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises for owing a combined total of more than $4.6 million.
In a statement, Crystal Cruises said it could not comment on outstanding legal issues. A lawyer for Peninsula Petroleum Far East did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday evening.
Last week, Crystal announced that it had suspended operations of two of its ships until April 29 and that its river cruises were suspended until the end of May.
“The suspension of operations will provide Crystal’s management team with an opportunity to assess the current state of affairs and consider various options moving forward,” the cruise line said in a statement.
One of the cruise line’s ships is scheduled to complete its voyage in Aruba on Jan. 30, and another is scheduled to complete its voyage in Argentina on Feb. 4.
“This was an extremely difficult but prudent decision given the current business environment and recent developments with our parent company, Genting Hong Kong,” said Jack Anderson, chairman of Crystal, in a statement.
“Crystal has been synonymous with luxury cruising for over 30 years and we look forward to welcoming our valued guests back when we resume operations,” he said. “We would like to thank our customers and travel advisors for their incredible support during these difficult times.”