Bahamas Sets Auction Date for Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity

cruise ship auction Crystal
Bahamas court has set the date for the auction of Crystal Cruises' two ships (file photo)

Published May 20, 2022 12:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

The two ocean-going cruise ships of Crystal Cruises have officially gone up for a sale with an auction scheduled for next month. It is the latest in a series of steps as the liquidation of the former Genting Hong Kong brand continues. 

The Supreme Court Commercial Division in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas published the official notice of sale for the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. Inspections of the cruise ships are ongoing with bids due to the court by June 7 accompanied by a 10 percent deposit. According to the notice, the winning bidder, if one is selected, will be notified by June 14. They would then have an additional seven days to complete the acquisition and take possession of the ships on an “as is, where is” basis.

The two cruise ships have remained at Freeport in the Bahamas since the cruise line ceased operations in January 2022 as part of the broader financial collapse of its parent company Genting Hong Kong. Management of the ships was handed over to V.Ships after the ships were arrested on behalf of the banks holding mortgages on the ships and the creditors. 

Several potential bidders reportedly remain interested in the cruise company or possibly just the ships. The only one to publicly step forward to express interest is Manfredi Lefebvre D'Ovidio, the chairman of an investment company called Heritage Group. During the 1990s, he led the development of another luxury cruise line, Silversea Cruises, which emerged as a competitor to Crystal. Lefebvre more recently sold Silversea Cruises to the Royal Caribbean Group. He remains active in the travel industry having acquired luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent.

While the two cruise ships maintained a reputation for luxury, analysts in the cruise industry point to their age as a possible limiting factor for potential buyers. The Crystal Symphony (51,000 gross tons), built by Kvaerner Masa in Finland, entered service in 1995, while the Crystal Serenity (68,870 gross tons) built by STX Europe (Chantiers de l’Atlantique) entered service in 2003. Crystal Cruises, however, had recently undertaken extensive renovations to the passenger areas of both ships.

The banks that hold the mortgages will decide the outcome of the auctions as they could move to take over the ships through the auctions or petition the court to reject the bids if they are deemed too low. The administrators in Florida overseeing the liquidation of the company reported recently that over 30,000 creditors filed claims. In addition, the fuel supplier that set off the collapse when they moved to arrest the cruise ships for unpaid bills, other suppliers, former crewmembers, travelers with reservations, and travel agents due commissions are believed to be among the claims. The Federal Maritime Commission has also set up a mechanism for passengers covered by the cruise line’s bond to be reimbursed.

Separately in Florida, the contents of Crystal’s offices and warehouse are being sold off in an auction ending next week. It includes everything from surplus furniture to computer screens and even pallets of playing cards with the cruise line’s logo. 

Experts predicted that the most sought-after asset from Crystal, however, was likely to b the company’s new luxury exploration cruise ship, which had only entered service in the summer of 2021. The Crystal Endeavor (20,400 gross tons) was originally arrested in South America, but this spring repositioned to Gibraltar where she remains in the anchorage. Crystal also had river cruise ships it was operating in Europe that are likely to draw strong interest from potential buyers. The Crystal brand name and assets such as its marketing database remain the property of Genting Hong Kong, which is also being liquidated. 

The cruise ships from Genting’s Star Cruises were recently sold with the indications being they will be scrapped while the fate of two other ocean-going cruise ships that operated for Dream Cruises and a smaller yacht cruise ship remains undetermined. The incomplete large cruise ship Global Dream is part of the liquidation of Genting Hong Kong’s German shipbuilding company MV Werften.