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Cruise ship changes course after U.S. judge orders seizure

A cruise ship
Crystal Symphony, which was scheduled to land Saturday in Miami, was diverted to the Bahamas after a U.S. judge granted an order to seize the vessel as part of a lawsuit over unpaid fuel.
(Bruce Smith / Associated Press)

A cruise ship that was supposed to dock in Miami has instead sailed to the Bahamas, after a U.S. judge granted an order to seize the vessel as part of a lawsuit over millions of dollars in unpaid fuel.

Cruise trackers show Crystal Symphony docked in the Bahamian island of Bimini.

“We all feel we were abducted by luxurious pirates!” passenger Stephen Heard Fales posted on Facebook.

Some passengers were taken by ferry Sunday to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The ferry ride was “uncomfortable due to inclement weather,” according to a statement from a spokesperson for operator Crystal Cruises. The company said passengers were also taken to local airports.

Crystal Cruises wouldn’t comment on “pending legal matters.”

It was unclear how many passengers were aboard. According to the company website, the vessel can carry up to 848 passengers.

The ship was scheduled to arrive in Miami on Saturday. But a federal judge in Miami on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for the ship, a maritime practice in which a U.S. marshal boards a vessel and takes charge of it once it enters U.S. waters.

Crystal Symphony passengers and entertainers said on social media they were surprised to find out about the legal case. One passenger posted to Facebook a letter from Crystal Cruises management that said the change in itinerary was due to “nontechnical operational issues.”

The lawsuit was filed in a Miami federal court by Peninsula Petroleum Far East under a maritime procedure that allows actions against vessels for unpaid debts. The complaint says Crystal Symphony was chartered or managed by Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises, which are both sued for breach of contract for allegedly owing $4.6 million in fuel.

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Crystal Cruises announced earlier this week that it was suspending operations through late April. In addition to Crystal Symphony, it has two other ships currently cruising, due to end their voyages Jan. 30 in Aruba and Feb. 4 in Argentina.

“Suspending operations will provide Crystal’s management team with an opportunity to evaluate the current state of business and examine various options moving forward,” the company said in a statement.


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