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Classic International Cruises Faces Uncertain Future

Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2012 by

Classic International Cruises Faces Uncertain Future


Shawn J. Dake

Classic International Cruises which counts five vintage passenger ships within it’s fleet, all built between 1948 and 1965, is navigating some seriously rough waters. Three of the five vessels have been arrested for debts, and future operations may be in jeopardy unless an announced restructuring of finances is agreed upon between the owners and the Montepio bank in Portugal. The bank had previously indicated that they would not fund any further operations and would not provide financing to see the line through to the end of the season.

PRINCESS DANAE departing Santorini in 2004. Photo © Peter Knego 2004.

Three of the ships have been arrested, one continues to sail under charter, and another remains laid up in Lisbon. The first sign of trouble came when the PRINCESS DANAE (ex PORT MELBOURNE, THERISOS EXPRESS, DANAE, ANAR, STARLIGHT PRINCESS, BALTICA) was detained in Dublin, Ireland on August 30th over an outstanding $94,000 fuel bill from 2011, but was allowed to sail after an agreement was reached. The ship was then arrested a second time in Marseille, France.

ATHENA postcard, courtesy Shawn Dake

The ATHENA (ex STOCKHOLM, VOLKERFREUNDSCHAFT, VOLKER, FRIDTJOF NANSEN, ITALIA I, ITALIA PRIMA, VALTUR PRIMA, CARIBE) was also arrested at Marseille. The company claims it is there for a scheduled dry docking prior to resuming service on a traditional, 36-night line voyage departing November 12th from Marseille, followed by Rome to Perth, Australia.

ARION at Koper, Slovenia in Sept 2011. Photo © Franz Neumeier – www.cruisetricks.de/

Their smallest ship, the 320-passenger ARION (ex ISTRA, ASTRA, ASTRA I) was arrested at Kotor, Montenegro. All of the disputes appear to be for failure to pay mounting fuel bills, back wages to the crew and other debts. Passengers have been flown back to their home countries, but 550 members of the ship’s crew remain aboard while they await repatriation and payment of their salaries. Most of the crew are from Indonesia, the Ukraine and Portugal.

PRINCESS DAPHNE. Photo © Ian Boyle – www.simplonpc.co.uk

The 479-passenger PRINCESS DAPHNE (ex PORT SYDNEY, AKROTIRI EXPRESS, DAPHNE, SWITZERLAND, OCEAN ODYSSEY, OCEAN MONARCH) has so far managed to avoid being arrested. It is operating under a three-year charter agreement with Ambiente Kreuzfahrten which began in April, 2012. The ship is a sister to the PRINCESS DANAE. Both were built in 1955 as refrigerated cargo ships for the Port Line, before being converted into a cruise ships by Carras Cruises in 1975 and 1976. The PRINCESS DAPHNE has recently been operating a series of cruises to the Canary Islands and along the south coast of Spain. She is scheduled to begin a Black Sea cruise from Istanbul on October 6th. Since the ship has so far been exempt from the problems facing the other Classic International ships an agreement may be in place allowing her to continue the long-term charter.

FUNCHAL in 2008. Photo © Ian Boyle – www.simplonpc.co.uk

The fifth ship in the fleet, the 9,563 gross ton FUNCHAL has not sailed since 2010. The 1961-vintage ship was being rebuilt meet SOLAS standards and the work has continually been delayed, which may have been an early sign of financial difficulties. The SOLAS conversion work is reportedly only 20% complete. This attractive liner has always sailed for the Portuguese and is one of the very few ships to retain her original name throughout her long career.

Classic International Cruises, goes by several other names including management by the Arcalia Shipping Company Ltd., and World Cruises Agency, Lisbon. The company was founded by George Potamianos, who passed away on May 29th of this year. Mr. Potamianos had been involved with cruising in Portugal since 1976, first with charters and later with his purchase of the FUNCHAL in 1985. He was a cousin of the Greek-based founding family of Epirotiki Cruises and got his start in the cruise industry with that company in the early 1970’s. His sons Alexandros and Emilios Potamianos have succeeded their father in running the company since his passing.

It is very hard to say what the future will hold for Classic International Cruises and their, old, small and very traditionally operated ships. Their founder loved this type of ship with their decades of history and more intimate atmospheres, which is a primary reason that they have survived for this long. It is highly unlikely that another operator would consider ships of this size and vintage even considering they are SOLAS compliant. On the exterior, with the exception of the FUNCHAL, all of these ships have been radically rebuilt, and their interiors modernized to meet today’s standards of comfort. Other operators of modest-size vintage ships are either looking for more modern hardware or are having financial difficulties themselves which would preclude expansion plans at this time. The Classic International Cruises website is still active and makes no mention of the arrests of three units of their fleet. A spokesman for the company branch office in Australia, Managing Director Grant Hunter, stated that “Athena’s ship owners and the bank are working on a major restructure that will be finalized within 5-7 days. The owners have advised that Athena will operate her full Australian season, as planned, beginning on November 12, 2012, in two months time. The ship has now entered a scheduled drydocking period in Marseille.” While the Australian office would primarily be concerned with the ATHENA which is scheduled to operate it’s longest season of cruises ever in the Southern hemisphere, no mention was made of the other ships or their current status. Ambiente Kreuzfahrten has charters scheduled for summer 2013 on both the PRINCESS DAPHNE and the ATHENA but whether these, or any, future cruises take place will largely depend on what financial arrangements can be completed in the next few weeks.

(Thanks to Ian Boyle – www.simplonpc.co.uk and to Franz Neumeierwww.cruisetricks.de/ for images reproduced here with permission)

Here is a brief look at the ships that comprise the Classic International Cruises fleet:

ATHENA 1948 16,144 tons 525’ x 69’ feet 552 passengers. Former Names: STOCKHOLM, VOLKERFREUNDSCHAFT, VOLKER, FRIDTJOF NANSEN, ITALIA I, ITALIA PRIMA, VALTUR PRIMA, CARIBE. Note: The oldest ocean-going cruise ship in operation, originally constructed as a trans-Atlantic liner for the Swedish American Line. Sold to Italian operators in 1989. The ship was completely rebuilt at a reported cost of $150 million in1994.

PRINCESS DAPHNE 1955 15,833 tons 533’ x 70’ 479 passengers. Former Names: PORT SYDNEY, AKROTIRI EXPRESS, DAPHNE, SWITZERLAND, OCEAN ODYSSEY, OCEAN MONARCH. Note: Rebuilt from a Port Line refrigerated cargo ship into a cruise ship by Carras Cruises in 1975. Currently operating under a three-year charter agreement with Ambiente Kreuzfahrten from April, 2012.

PRINCESS DANAE 1955 16,531 tons 532’ x 70’ 568 passengers. Former Names: PORT MELBOURNE. THERISOS EXPRESS, DANAE, ANAR, STARLIGHT PRINCESS, BALTICA. Note: Rebuilt from a Port Line refrigerated cargo ship into a cruise ship by Carras Cruises in 1976. Nearly destroyed by fire in 1991, the ship was completely refurbished with much of the interior rebuilt.

FUNCHAL 1961 9,563 tons 507’ x 63’ 471 passengers.

ARION 1965 5,888 387’ x 54’ 320 passengers. Former Names: ISTRA, ASTRA, ASTRA I. Note: Originally built as one of a pair of ships for the former Yugoslavian State Shipping Company, Jadrolinija. Purchased by Arcalia Shipping in 1999 and completely rebuilt in 2000.

Thanks to Ian Boyle – www.simplonpc.co.uk Martin Cox, Ally Jones, Peter Knego and Franz Neumeier – www.cruisetricks.de/


60 Responses to Classic International Cruises Faces Uncertain Future

  1. Martin Cox

    November 29, 2012 at 6:46 am

    Hello Brian, AIS lists her at Split today. Moored.


  2. David Merton

    November 29, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Thanks Alan, that is appreciated.
    Could one say the asking price for Athena is around the 15 to 25 million… more !
    In you estimation, just how much longer could Athena remain in service, barring any major breakdowns, & being well cared for etc.
    Brian, Athena is still at Marseilles, the AIS doesnt allways come up correctly, no one can afford to move her untill she is sold, or unless a generous seller includes “free ” delivery to any port !

  3. alan dumelow

    November 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    David: Add another four to your max. Remaining life expectancy about ten years, maybe fifteen at a push. She’s in good condition, but you have to remember her hull dates back to 1946. Many newer ships around for this price and less. Full portfolio available.

  4. Kalle Id

    November 30, 2012 at 6:14 am

    The ATHENA that Martin spotted in Split was a different passenger ship with the same name. I also noticed her yesterday when checking for the CIC Athena’s current locations. Can’t find either ATHENA on AIS right now though. In the case of the CIC ship it’s likely they have simply turn AIS off, as is often done when a ship is laid up.

  5. Patrick Murrell (Clevedon, England)

    December 2, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Sadly, it looks like it is all now over. Follow the link from the official notice on the CIC web-site to Lawlor Partners web-site, and you will find 65 pages of quite interesting reading. A meeting of Creditors, which seems likely to lead to winding up of the Australian end of the operation, is to be held in Sydney on December 5 th.

  6. Brian Hawley - Melbourne, Australia

    January 29, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Has this thread died for some reason?

  7. Hank

    January 31, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Lol, I agree…I think that nothing new has come about regarding this. I haven’t seen any news searches in my internet surfing. I guess the ships are still in lay-up?

  8. Ralph Teutsch

    August 1, 2013 at 10:46 am

    According to the French website Mer et Marine, four of the five CIC
    ships will be sold to and operated by a new Portuguese company called Portuscale Cruises. All four will be named after cities and/or regions in Portugal. The Potamianos family will continue to own the fifth ship, with what plans for it I know not.

    Portuscale has a website, although not yet a very informative one.
    It is great news that this eccentric and gemuetlich fleet will continue to sail…

  9. Ralph Teutsch

    August 1, 2013 at 11:01 am

    It appears that the Funchal will keep her name, the Athena becomes the Azores (spelled in English, presumably with an international clientele in mind), the Princess Danae the Lisboa, and the Arion the Porto.

  10. alan dumelow

    August 3, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Wake up Ralph. The new names were announced a month ago. But I do like your use of the word “gemuetlich”. Perfect. There are many brilliant images of “Azores” and “Funchal” on Luis Correia’s BlogSpot including a link to the FugasNoticias website with a BRILLIANT virtual tour of what “Funchal” will look like inside.

    Other news;

    The “Rochdale 1″ is, sadly, at Aliaga and about to beach.

    Looks like Tropicana Cruises has collapsed, “Adriana” has changed
    hands, and is now cruising in the Black Sea under “special exemptions” for the fact she’s non-solas AND her Class expired.

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