The first New Year voyages of two of Britain’s best-known cruise lines have been cancelled at short notice “due to operational reasons.”
A one-line message on the website of Voyages of Discovery announces with regret that Voyager’s “Riches of the Orient cruise due to start in Malaysia on 4th January 2017 has been cancelled. Voyages of Discovery apologises to all of its passengers who were due to sail on this cruise.”
An almost identical message on the Swan Hellenic website announces the cancellation of Minerva’s “Gateway to the Atlantic Isles” cruise scheduled to leave Marseille on January 3.
Unconfirmed reports say that potential buyers inspected the 540-passenger Voyager (above) during a recent dry-dock at the Keppel yard in Singapore. Representatives of Sea Chefs, the company that operates the vessel’s hotel services, are said to be flying from Germany to address crew members on Monday.
According to the Voyages’ website, the 15-day cruise from Port Kelang in Malaysia was sold out. Scheduled ports of call were Muara, Brunei; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Bangkok, Thailand; and Kuantan, Malaysia. The cruise should have ended after an overnight stay in Singapore on January 17/18.
Guest speakers booked for the voyage were Professor Marie Conte-Helm, a specialist in Asian art; Professor Brian Ford, described as “the world’s leading expert on obtaining images with early microscopes”; and Sir James Hodge, a retired diplomat and former British ambassador to Thailand and Laos.
Minerva’s 15-day cruise, with fares from £3,145 per person, should have been visiting Sete, France; Cartagena, Motril and Cadiz, Spain; Gibraltar; Portimao, Portugal; Funchal, Madeira; and Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
Speakers were retired diplomat Robin Kealy, art historian Sarah Searight, and the Very Rev Victor Stock, Priest Vicar at Westminster Abbey and a former Dean of Guildford.
The subsequent 14-night “Atlantic Archipelagos” cruise on Minerva, scheduled to depart Tenerife on January 17, is also reported to have been cancelled.
Voyages of Discovery and Swan Hellenic are owned by the All Leisure Group, based in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. Its other brands include Hebridean Island Cruises, Travelsphere and Just You. Hebridean Princess’s first cruise of 2017 is scheduled for March 1.
Company executives have yet to reply to requests for further information. One leading cruise travel agent, who has been informed of the cancellations, said the future for the two ships looked grim.
One employee on Minerva told me that crew had been given no information other than the cancellation of the next cruises, although there were rumours that the ships might be for sale.