Classic Liner Up for Auction After Cruise Venture Closes Shop

Funchal after a refit, 2013 (Alicia Fagerving / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Published Dec 29, 2020 8:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

The 1961-built ocean liner Funchal is up for auction again, almost exactly two years after current owner Signature Living Group acquired her with plans to start a "floating beach club" off the party destination of Ibiza. 

Like so many cruise startups, the endeavor had a rocky start and a swift end. After almost a year spent paying off the vessel's $5 million auction price, Signature Living Group suspended its cruise operations plan in late 2019, and it has been attempting to sell the Funchal since. 

One of Signature Living Group's core onshore businesses - an "ultimate party hotel" chain - suffered due to COVID-19 shutdown and quarantine measures, and it entered administration in April 2020. According to its administrator, Duff & Phelps, the Signature Living Hotels division owed about $150 million at the time of its collapse, and its assets are expected to be liquidated. Several of Signature Living Group's residential developments have also encountered financial headwinds.

The Funchal has a long and successful history of operations, primarily in Portugal and in Britain. She was designed and laid down as a classic ocean liner, built at Danish yard Helsingør Shipyard in 1961 for the Portuguese shipping line Empresa Insulana de Navegação. She served in the Portuguese market until 1984, when she became the first ship in the fleet of Classic International Cruses. 

After three decades of operation, Classic folded in late 2012, and Funchal was sold to a new Portuguese startup, Portuscale Cruises. She completed a refit at the Naval Rocha shipyard in Lisbon and resarted service later that year. 

Portuscale exited the cruise market under its own brand in 2016, intending to charter out its fleet to other operators. Funchal entered into a period of layup, and she was eventually sold at auction to Signature Living. She is still in warm layup in Lisbon, and buyers may arrange to inspect her through broker CW Kellock.