strands ship in
Virgin Islands

A Honolulu judge orders the ship
to stay out of non-U.S. ports

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands >> Hundreds of cruise ship passengers have been stranded in the U.S. Virgin Islands for more than a week because its owner filed for bankruptcy in Hawaii.

Olympic World Cruises' liner Olympia Voyager was supposed to leave nearly two weeks ago for a 16-day Christmas and New Year's cruise to St. Barthelemy and the Amazon River in Brazil and return to Port Everglades, Fla., on Friday.

But a U.S. bankruptcy judge in Honolulu, after the Voyager had already left from Florida on Dec. 17, ordered the ship and its 750 passengers to avoid all foreign ports and dock in this U.S. territory of 108,000 residents.

The dispute with lenders also led to the cancellation of a 14-day Christmas and New Year's cruise that was to bring 750 people to Hawaii.

The liner Olympia Explorer was supposed to have departed Los Angeles Dec. 22 en route to Hilo, Kona, Maui, Honolulu and Kauai after a stop in Ensenada, Mexico. The Explorer had previously returned to California from Honolulu after a German creditor unsuccessfully tried to keep the ship in Hawaii.

The Olympic Voyager was scheduled to leave yesterday from St. Thomas for Florida, but several passengers said the ship's crew told them that the departure was postponed until today.

"We really can't complain," Bill Seigel, a Voyager passenger traveling with a group of 12 retirees from Boca Raton, Fla., said yesterday. "(But) we'd like to know if we are definitely getting back by January."

Cruise line officials could not be reached for comment.

Olympic World's and Royal World's Greek-based parent company, Royal Olympic Cruise Lines Inc., which is not in bankruptcy, issued a statement last week saying future plans for the Voyager and Explorer depend on negotiations with lenders and bankruptcy judge approval.

Two German banks holding delinquent mortgages on the Olympia Voyager were preparing to seize the ship along with another liner, Olympia Explorer, belonging to sister company Royal World Cruises. The Explorer was docked in Honolulu.

Olympic World and Royal World filed for Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Hawaii, protecting it from creditors. However, they must restructure their debt before they can emerge from bankruptcy court.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Faris ordered the Olympia Voyager to St. Thomas, preventing it from visiting any foreign ports. Lender agents had argued that other unpaid creditors would try to seize the ship while it was outside the jurisdiction of U.S. bankruptcy law.

The Voyager's first stop was supposed to be St. Barthelemy, a French Caribbean overseas department.

Many business owners said the ship's unintended visit to St. Thomas has not put a damper on the spirits of most passengers.

"We had a lot of their customers in our store," shopkeeper Vinod Mohannani said. "They come in and shop, and they're kind of taking it in stride."


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