Cruise ship passengers strandedVan Gogh ship detained in Madeira over dispute

03 April 2008

Van Gogh cruise ship

More than 450 passengers on the last leg of a round-the-world cruise spent a second night stranded in Madeira.

The MV Van Gogh has been prevented from setting sail since being detained on Tuesday in the port of Funchal in the final stage of a three-month voyage.

Holidaymakers were due to arrive back in Falmouth, Cornwall, on Saturday but a dispute involving the administrators of Travelscope, the previous operator, means this schedule is likely to be delayed.

Van Gogh Cruises

Van Gogh Cruises, which is based in Cheltenham and is a subsidiary of Dutch-owned Club Cruise, is expected to update the passengers on the situation today.

In a statement carried by the Gloucestershire Echo website last night, Van Gogh Cruise Line managing director Mark Horwood said lawyers were arguing for the release of the vessel.

Mr Horwood, 43, said passengers were preparing a petition to be sent to travel association Abta to request immediate 'repatriation'.

Delay

He said that Travelscope's administrators were behind the detention, making 'alleged claims' relating to previous charter agreements.

'Currently Club Cruise's lawyers are liaising with the authorities in an effort to prevent further delay by allowing this matter to be handled on return to Falmouth, to minimise further distress to our passengers,' the statement said. 'However, the administrators have so far refused to allow this.

'The passengers (approx 460) have been kept informed on board.'

Cruise saved

It added: 'We would like to remind you that it was through the intervention of Club Cruise that the Van Gogh's World Cruise was saved following the administration of Travelscope.

'The administrators of Travelscope agreed that Club Cruise should operate the cruise.

'They have now prevented them from doing so.

'A further statement will be sent as soon as there are any developments.'

Travelscope

Mr Horwood told the BBC he hoped the passengers would be home by Sunday evening.

The holidaymakers had originally booked the cruise through Travelscope but, after it went into administration, Abta arranged for the Van Gogh trip to go ahead in a one-off arrangement.

The liner set off on January 4 from Falmouth for a trip costing up to £9,000 per person.

Court order

It took in the Mediterranean, Egypt, the Caribbean, Ecuador, Tahiti, New Zealand, Sydney, Mauritius and Cape Town.

A passenger told the BBC that although they are not confined to the ship and can enjoy its facilities, the problem is not knowing if or when they will set sail.

There is a 'Dunkirk spirit' on board

He said they had been told there is a court order against the ship,

'We appear to be being held to ransom by the receivers of Travelscope who are holding the ship here,' he said, adding that there is a 'Dunkirk spirit' on board.

Abta

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Abta said last night that the association was aware of the situation and was monitoring it.

'It's a commercial dispute which is why the ship is impounded. We don't know what that is about,' she said.

'The tour operator has assured us that the passengers will be returned home either by ship or plane to fit in with the existing schedule. This is the end of a three-month cruise.'

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