An arrest warrant has been issued for Crystal Cruises' Crystal Symphony due to unpaid fuel bills, according to case documents obtained by USA TODAY. The warrant enables authorities to take custody of the ship.
Now, passengers have been stuck on board an extra day as the ship changed course and avoided docking in Miami where it might have been met by a U.S. marshal.
On Saturday, the ship sailed toward Bimini after skirting its planned disembarkation. Initially, the ship was meant to return to Miami on Saturday, ending a round-trip cruise that began Jan. 8, according to Cruise Mapper. Crystal Cruises' parent organization, the Genting Group, owns Resorts World Bimini, and the Crystal Symphony is a Bahamas-flagged vessel.
Peninsula Petroleum Far East is looking to recover just over $4.6 million from Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises. They are seeking more than $1.2 million from the Crystal Symphony vessel alone.
Crystal Cruises suspended sailings earlier this week on the heels of the collapse of the cruise line's parent company, Genting Hong Kong.
Passengers and crew, apart from a skeleton crew that will continue to man the ship, are scheduled to disembark Sunday in Bimini after the ship clears customs. Then, they will be ferried to Fort Lauderdale, Elio Pace told USA TODAY Saturday. Pace is a United Kingdom-based performer working on board Crystal Symphony.
"In three days, this whole thing has blown up from nothing," Pace said. "There was no warning."
He said he had heard rumors that Genting was in trouble financially but wasn't too concerned when he boarded the ship Tuesday, expecting to stay on and perform until Feb. 23. Now, while contemplating what to do after leaving the ship tomorrow, he's hoping he'll be compensated for the time he was on board.
"I cannot tell you if I'm going to get paid for this week, let alone for the contracts that are supposed to run until the 23rd of February," Pace said, noting that the situation isn't unique to him. "(If) I'm in that predicament, I can guarantee you that everybody else on this ship – the crew and the staff – are in exactly the same predicament."
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Peninsula Petroleum Far East filed a lawsuit against the ship, Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises (HK) Limited, owned by Genting Group, and made a complaint Wednesday with a request for an arrest warrant.
On Friday, Judge Darrin Gayles of the U.S. District Court in Southern Florida approved the warrant.
Attorney J. Stephen Simms of Simms Showers, who is representing Peninsula Petroleum Far East, told Bloomberg that a U.S. marshal and a court-appointed custodian would be prepared to arrest the ship Saturday should it come into port in Miami as intended – but he expected otherwise.
“The U.S. marshal will be there with the arrest warrant if the ship shows up in Miami,” Simms told Bloomberg. “My good money is that it’s not landing in Miami, from what we’ve been told. Our client is determined to recover.”
To accommodate the more than $1.2 million in claims, Peninsula Petroleum Far East would like the Crystal Symphony ship to be sold, according to the complaint.
USA TODAY has reached out to Crystal Cruises, Simms and Jonathan Scott Cooper of Blanck Cooper, the attorneys representing Peninsula Petroleum Far East.
Plans changing quickly on board but vacation still on for some
John Dresner, from the United Kingdom, was on Crystal Symphony Saturday.
"Yesterday we’re told that for (a) non-technical reason we had to end the cruise in Bahamas rather than Miami, which meant we had to change our plans and travel arrangements," he said, noting that despite worries they may not be paid, the ship's crew have been excellent and continue to feed and entertain passengers.
Pace, the performer on Crystal Cruises' Crystal Symphony, echoed Dresner's sentiment.
"I'm standing on the top deck of the ship, deck 12 looking down over the swimming pool in the hot tub," Pace said. "And I'm seeing people lounging around, passengers just chilling, reading books and just going with the flow."
Luckily for Dresner's traveling group, the change in destination didn't throw too much of a wrench into their plans.
"We had to change flights which actually wasn’t too bad, and we will be a day late home which, again, is not the end of the world for us," he said.
But that's not the case for everyone.
Pace posted on Twitter about the chain of events that occurred since he boarded the ship Tuesday, expressing frustration.
After learning that the ship would stop sailing when it reached Miami, Pace wrote that he made new travel arrangements.
Then, the ship's plans changed, again.
"Yesterday, Friday, (the night of my second show) after all arrangements had been set for flights, car hire etc by all disembarking passengers and crew, we were notified by the captain that the ship was no longer sailing to Miami," he wrote on Twitter Saturday.
And Saturday evening, while he had new arrangements set, he wasn't convinced things would go according to plan.
"We're supposed to get off tomorrow," he said. But "we just never know what's going to happen."