© John Honeywell 2017
The cruise plans of 7,000 holidaymakers were sunk today when it was confirmed that All Leisure Group – owner of Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery – had gone bust.
About 400 passengers on Minerva (above) and Voyager were coming home at the end of their Christmas cruises on scheduled flights that had already been paid for.
Those with future bookings will receive financial compensation. The CAA, through its ATOL scheme, will take care of claims for holidays that included a flight element to get to or from the ships. Cruise-only passengers will be dealt with by ABTA. Administrators Grant Thornton said employees should contact ERA Solutions on 01827 383 531
All Leisure has sold its tour package operators Travelsphere and Just You to G Adventures. A syndicate of investors headed by All Leisure chairman Roger Allard has purchased Hebridean Island Cruises, which runs The Queen’s favourite ship, Hebridean Princess.
Allard, who has been in charge at ALG for 20 years, said the iconic cruise brands had been victims of a “perfect storm of events.
“Since the Arab Spring and as a result of other events, the world has become a smaller place and it was no longer possible for us to take our small ships to Egypt, Libya and north Africa, Lebanon, Syria, the Black Sea have all become difficult and even Istanbul and Turkey have now been removed from the map.
“Then we had Brexit and the weaker pound – when all our costs are in dollars, euros and other local currencies. It was impossible to keep going. We looked for buyers for the cruise lines but nobody is interested in buying a business that is not making money.
“At least we have not left anyone stranded abroad. They have all come home on the flights they had booked and paid for. People with bookings will be compensated, and we have cash in the bank to minimise the impact on creditors. It’s a real shame that cruises have had to be cancelled, but thankfully no one is stranded.”
Allard added that he hoped the timing of the closure meant customers would be able to book alternative cruises with other operators.
All Leisure assets including the Voyager will be available for sale by the administrators. Minerva, however, was leased and is not for sale.
The holidays of15,000 people who have bookings with Travelsphere and Just You are unaffected by the changes, and the companies’ HQ will remain in Market Harborough for at least the next 12 months.
Swan Hellenic was founded in the 1950s. It has been rescued before, after owners Carnival UK – who had bought the company in 1983 – left it without a ship. Former P&O chairman Lord Sterling acquired the name and went into business with ALG a year later.
Allard confirmed today that Sterling had not been involved in any rescue attempt this time around.
© John Honeywell 2017