In a stunning move, a Miami court has issued an arrest warrant for the Crystal Symphony cruise ship as an attempt to reclaim assets for unpaid fuel bills. The cruise ship has now been diverted from its current itinerary and it is unclear how or if the ship may be confiscated.
Arrest Warrant Issued for Crystal Symphony
Federal U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles granted the arrest order for the cruise ship on January 20, 2022, just days after the ship’s parent company, Genting Hong Kong, filed for bankruptcy. Because of that filing, Crystal Cruises had already announced a suspension of all ocean and river cruises, though ships currently sailing were to finish itineraries already underway.
Ocean cruises, including itineraries planned for Crystal Symphony, are currently suspended through April 29, 2022.
The arrest warrant was issued in response to a civil complaint filed by fuel supplier Peninsula Petroleum Far East Pte. Ltd. In addition to naming the vessel Crystal Symphony as a defendant, the overall line Crystal Cruises as well as Star Cruises, also owned by Genting Hong Kong, were also named as defendants.
According to Petroleum Far East, total claims are $1.2 million against Crystal Symphony, $2.1 million against Crystal Cruises, and $1.3 million against Star Cruises, with unpaid bills dating as far back as 2017.
The arrest warrant has been issued as an attempt to collect on that unpaid debt, particularly now that the parent company has declared bankruptcy.
What Does It Mean to Arrest a Cruise Ship?
Quite obviously, a cruise ship cannot be “arrested” in the sense of handcuffs, jail time, and court appearances. The ship may be seized, however, and impounded as collateral until such time that the lawsuit is settled and debts paid. It is possible that when a ship is seized, valuable items onboard – such as retail inventory, cash reserves for the casino, etc. – may be tallied as partial payment for the outstanding debts.
Because the lawsuit and arrest warrant have been issued through a U.S. District Court, federal marshals are rumored to be involved to locate the ship and enforce the orders, though this is not yet confirmed.
Where Is Crystal Symphony?
At the time the arrest warrant was issued, Crystal Symphony was in the midst of a Caribbean sailing with a planned debarkation in Miami on January 22. Because of the bankruptcy filing, lawsuit, and arrest warrant, however, that is no longer the ship’s course.
According to reports from passengers on board, the ship is now being diverted to Bimini in the Bahamas, scheduled to arrive on January 22 due to a “non technical issue” with the original debarkation plans. While there has been no official explanation given for this diversion, it is likely in response to the arrest warrant so the ship cannot be immediately seized.
Passengers will then be ferried via Balearia Caribbean, a fast ferry service, to Fort Lauderdale and then will be provided ground transportation to their choice of PortMiami, Miami International Airport, or Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Assistance is also likely to be made available with travel plans to return home, if necessary, since the passengers will not be arriving back in Miami as scheduled, and flight plans will likely need adjusting for many travelers.
What Will Happen to Crystal Cruises?
At this time, it is unclear what the future may hold for Crystal Cruises or its ships. It is possible that refunds for paid bookings that are now canceled may be in jeopardy, as the cruise line’s overall assets could be frozen until the legal matters are settled.
Another possible scenario is that another cruise line corporation could get involved, purchasing Crystal Cruises and assuming some of its debt in exchange for those assets, which would then be handled by the new line.
Ships could be refurbished into a new cruise line, reorganized for a revitalized Crystal Cruises, or even sold for scrap.
The future is uncertain for such a formerly well-respected, well-loved, luxury cruise line. Crystal Cruises has been offering passengers amazing voyages since it was founded in 1988, and the line undoubtedly has many loyal passengers who hope to see it continue sailing for many years. What is certain, however, is that the cruise line is not giving up.
In a statement on the cruise line’s website, Crystal Cruises’ president, Jack Anderson, said, “Crystal has been synonymous with luxury cruising for more than 30 years and we look forward to welcoming back our valued guests when we resume operations. We wish to thank our guests and travel advisors for their incredible support during these ongoing challenging times.”
At this time, passengers with future bookings should stay in close contact with their travel advisors or Crystal Cruises directly for updates and information, but be advised that the situation can be tumultuous and it may be weeks or months before the proceedings are resolved.