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Old December 27th, 2003, 09:25 AM
beachmom beachmom is offline
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Default ROC 1 port 16 day cruise

Exotic trip to Amazon now cruise to nowhere

By John Lantigua, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 27, 2003



They embarked on an exotic cruise that was supposed to include a stop at the former French penal colony on Devil's Island.

Instead they are inmates aboard an impounded ship, anchored in shallow Caribbean waters, hundreds of miles short of their destination. They have given up on receiving a reprieve.

More than 800 passengers aboard the Olympia Voyager, which departed from Port Everglades Dec. 17 on a 16-day Amazon River cruise, have spent the past week anchored off St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, unable to set sail because of a bankruptcy proceeding.

"Some representatives of a German bank came aboard and took the computers off... including the navigational computers," said Arliss Dennis, 61, a businessman from Lake Worth, one of the passengers. "The ship's owners owe $300 million and they didn't pay the interest. So, here we are."

According to court documents filed in federal court, the creditor is the Kreditanstalt Fur Wiederaufbau, an economic development bank owned by the German government and based in Frankfurt. The bankers want their deutschemarks -- as much as US $4 million in interest -- from the Greek owners of the Royal Olympia Cruise Lines Inc., who recently filed for Chapter 11.

"We've found out that there was a court order on the ship filed on the day we left, but we weren't told that before," Dennis said. "The court said we weren't allowed to dock any place but in U.S. waters. We were originally supposed to stop first at St. Barts on Dec. 18, but instead we came here to St. Thomas on the 19th. They didn't tell us that was going to happen either."

St. Barts is Dutch territory, while St. Thomas is U.S. turf. The cruise company was awaiting a judge's decision that would have allowed the ship to continue south, according to the court documents.

"But the captain made the announcement after dinner, about 10:30 p.m., on the night of Dec. 20, that the judge had ruled against them and that we couldn't move," Dennis said. "We haven't moved since. We're anchored about 60 feet from shore."

Neither representatives of the cruise line nor attorneys for the German bank were available for comment Friday. But a notice posted on the Internet by the ship's owners acknowledged that the Voyager was temporarily waylaid in St. Thomas because problems with creditors. Another ship owned by the company, the Olympia Explorer, had to cancel a cruise scheduled to leave Monday from Los Angeles, headed for Ensenada, Mexico, and the Hawaiian Islands, for the same reason.

The Voyager has a capacity of 836 passengers, according to the company's promotional material.

"This was our first stop and looks like it will be our last," said Charlie Mahoney, 39, an elevator mechanic from Greenacres who spoke by cellphone while lying next to the ship's pool and overlooking the island. "Well, at least the view is nice."

Mahoney said the ship's captain sought permission to take the Voyager 3 miles offshore so he could open the duty free store and the casino, but the court refused. The passengers can go ashore in a tender, but they say they have exhausted the attractions on the island.

"It isn't the Amazon," said Andrew Camizzi, 19, of Lake Clarke Shores, who said he had sought out people his own age on board but that the pickings were slim. "There are about six kids on this boat and 830 old people."

He, Dennis, Mahoney and other passengers say they were told by the ship's purser that they would get full refunds from their travel agents and be eligible for 50 percent discounts on a future cruise.

"But we called our travel agents and they said they had paid the cruise company and had no money to refund to anybody," Dennis said. "The people here on the ship are saying it will be resolved by the time we dock again in Port Everglades Jan. 2. We'll see."

The plan is for the ship to leave St. Thomas Monday and cruise slowly back to Florida to adhere to its scheduled arrival.

"This cruise ship is supposed to be one of the fastest in the world, that's what the company says, and now the idea is to cruise very slowly back to Florida," said Cecilia Alvarez of Buenos Aires, Argentina, another passenger. "It's ironic, isn't it?"

The only alternative is to pay at least $500 for a one-way airplane ticket from St. Thomas to Fort Lauderdale, via San Juan, Puerto Rico. None of the Floridians interviewed planned to fly home.

Archie Mintz, 69, of Delray Beach wasn't flying and he was making the best of the ship.

"The hotel on board is beautiful, the entertainment is beautiful and the crew are all very nice," he said, "although the food is only so-so."

Dennis agreed: "Yes, the grapes are getting a bit brown."
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  #2  
Old December 27th, 2003, 09:28 AM
CaribbeanSun
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Default Re: ROC 1 port 16 day cruise

Oh my!

Not the vacation they planned but spending a week in St. Thomas sounds sort of nice. I am surprised the ship even took off. I feel sorry for those on board.
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Old December 27th, 2003, 09:42 AM
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rollerdonna rollerdonna is offline
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Default Re: ROC 1 port 16 day cruise

I guess if you're gonna be "grounded", St. Thomas is a nice place to be! What a bummer of a vacation though, for those held prisoner onboard!

donna

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Old December 27th, 2003, 09:48 AM
Thomas Thomas is offline
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Default Re: ROC 1 port 16 day cruise

I'm anxious to hear if the passengers in fact get a refund since the cruise contract specifies the ports may be changed at any time. Hmmmmm...............

Regards,
Thomas
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Old December 29th, 2003, 10:27 AM
David Starkey
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Default Re: ROC 1 port 16 day cruise

What a bad situation for all the passengers. I understand it as the same thing happened to my family and I on the Big Red Boat 2(-except the ship had no A/C.) We got a coupon for a free cruise too but the line was defunct.
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