MV Van Gogh runs into trouble in Madeira

Van Gogh cruise liner

The ship was due to return to the UK on Saturday

Efforts are under way to secure the release of a UK cruise ship that has been detained by police in Madeira.

The Van Gogh, which has about 460 passengers on board, was held on Tuesday shortly after it came into Funchal port in the Portuguese isles.

It is understood the ship has been held in connection with an alleged debt relating to the previous operator which went into administration.

Van Gogh Cruise Line Ltd said its lawyers were liaising with authorities.

The ship is on the final stage of a round-the-world cruise and had been due back in Falmouth on Saturday.

It set off on 4 January from Falmouth, after operator Travelscope went into administration.

Passenger petition

A spokesman for Van Gogh Cruise Line Ltd, which is based in Cheltenham and a subsidiary of the Dutch-owned Club Cruise, said they were working with their lawyers to get the ship released as quickly as possible.

Passengers have been told there will be another announcement on Thursday on the ship to inform them of the latest situation.

 

In a statement, the cruise operator said: “Currently Club Cruise’s lawyers are liaising with the authorities in an effort to prevent further delay by allowing this matter to be handled on return to Falmouth, to minimise further distress to our passengers.

“However, the administrators have so far refused to allow this.

“The passengers have been kept informed on board. They are currently preparing a petition to be sent to ABTA to urgently request they arrange immediate repatriation back to Falmouth on the Van Gogh.”

Gladys Hobson, 64, is on board the ship with her husband, Wallace.

She said the cruise director used a public address system to inform passengers that the ship was being held. Passengers are free to leave the ship.

Locator map

“We were all shocked. Our first reaction was that it was an April Fools’ joke. Then we realised it was serious,” she said.

Mrs Hobson, from Tyneside, said many of the passengers were elderly and many relied on supplies of medication and were concerned they could run out if the dispute continued for days.

“The passengers of this ship should not be made to suffer due to a dispute. They shouldn’t be involving passengers,” said Mrs Hobson.

However, she added: “We’re in a beautiful place. You couldn’t be in a better place to be held ransom.”

‘Dunkirk spirit’

This positive outlook was shared by another passenger, who did not want to be identified, who described the atmosphere on the ship as being akin to the “Dunkirk spirit”.

The passenger added: “Everybody’s very happy with the situation and they’re relying upon the ship to resolve the problem. One or two passengers would like to leave as soon as possible.

“Some people have to be at work on Monday. Not everybody on board the ship’s retired, so they want to get away from here and get back to work and at the moment they have no real indication of when we will leave and that’s the problem.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said they were aware of the situation with the cruise ship and were monitoring it.

However, she added that Van Gogh Cruise Lines Ltd were not bonded to Abta.

The Madeira Islands are an autonomous region of Portugal.

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