‘A colossal mess’: Embattled Crystal Cruises diverts second ship to Bahamas, sends passengers to Fort Lauderdale

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A second cruise ship from embattled luxury cruise operator Crystal Cruises has diverted from its original itinerary to dock in the Bahamas, avoiding U.S. ports by transporting passengers via ferry Monday back to Fort Lauderdale.

Crystal Serenity left PortMiami on Jan. 17. Two days later, the company said it was suspending operations on ocean cruises through April, following the announcement from its parent company of a pending liquidation amid financial troubles.

A Serenity passenger, who renewed her wedding vows with her husband on the cruise, told the Miami Herald the ship has about 400 passengers aboard what was supposed to be a voyage of more than 100 days.

The ship’s shortened trip is the latest in the saga involving Miami-based Crystal and its bankrupt parent company, Genting Hong Kong. On Jan. 23, another Crystal ship, the Crystal Symphony, rerouted to the Bahamas, instead of heading back to Miami as planned. A federal judge in South Florida had issued an arrest warrant to seize the ship upon arrival in the United States due to unpaid fuel bills. Genting Group owns a resort and marina in Bimini, Bahamas, the safe haven where that Symphony ship has been docked.

Meanwhile, passengers onboard the Crystal Serenity were in Costa Rica when the debacle with its sister ship was unfolding. They were supposed to stop in multiple destinations in the Caribbean, before ending the cruise in Aruba on Jan. 30. Instead, the Serenity slowly sailed toward the eastern Caribbean, making no stops. Shortly before the ship was supposed to dock in Aruba, passengers were alerted that they would not be allowed into the country and would instead go to the Bahamas, then be transported to Fort Lauderdale, just like the Crystal Symphony passengers.

Nancy Plencner of Arizona, a passenger on the Serenity, had booked to sail on Crystal Serenity for 116 days.

“It is a colossal mess,” Plencner said. “Everyone is up in arms. We have spent the majority of this cruise making travel plans, changing plans, losing more money on nonrefundable airline tickets and cruise deposits on other lines.”

Plencner, her husband and their travel agent coordinated to get the couple on another long-term cruise through Regent Seven Seas.

Nancy Plencner and her husband Leo Damkroger renewed their vows on the Crystal Serenity. The couple was supposed to be on a 116-day voyage but their trip was reduced to about two weeks with most of the ports of call canceled.
Nancy Plencner and her husband Leo Damkroger renewed their vows on the Crystal Serenity. The couple was supposed to be on a 116-day voyage but their trip was reduced to about two weeks with most of the ports of call canceled.

“How could they have allowed us to board, and sail off when they had to have clearly known they were shutting down the ships within a few hours?” she said. “And what is the chance of getting our money back? Not an inconsequential amount I might add, in our case over $75,000.”

Crystal Cruises confirmed in a statement to the Herald that the Serenity ship was denied entry into Aruba.

“Local officials informed the company late Friday afternoon that the ship will be not permitted to dock in Aruba as scheduled,” according to the statement on Monday. “After receiving this unfortunate news, Crystal’s management team spent hours conferring with Aruba officials toward a positive resolution, with even our humanitarian pleas falling on deaf ears, to no avail.”

Crystal officials said that there were, “no reasonable risks or claims made against the vessel.” The arrest warrant in January was for the Crystal Symphony rather than the Serenity.

Crystal Cruises did not respond to a request for more information about what ultimately would happen to the Serenity ship. Presumably, it also will dock with its sister ship, Crystal Symphony, where Genting owns Resorts World Bimini that includes a private marina.