The world’s oldest cruiseship attracted no buyers willing to pay its hefty reserve price when auction bids were examined by administrators of Portuscale Cruises on Monday.
Cruise sector sources told TradeWinds they were not surprised — not when the reserve for the 16,100-gt Astoria (built 1948) was set at €10m ($12.1m).
In today's market, that could buy a much larger and newer ship.
An industry source familiar with the vessel believes the minimum bid was set high because of the administrators’ fiduciary responsibility to claimants.
“Now that a sale has failed to materialise at the initial upper limit, they will have to organise a second auction in a more reasonable price range, or sell the ship by private treaty after the claimants have been allowed to weigh in,” he said.
“It's costing the people trying to get their money back more every day.”
The Astoria has in effect been under the control of its mortgage holder, Portugal’s Montepio Bank, since the collapse of Portuscale Cruises in 2015.
The bank has been trying with little success to sell the 560-passenger ship through broking channels since then.
Rather than keep it in lay-up until a sale could be arranged, the administrator of its special-purpose shipowning vehicle, Island Cruises — Transportes Maritimos, Unipessoal, found gainful employment through a charter to the UK's Cruises & Maritime Voyages (CMV).
That charter came to an abrupt halt in 2020 after CMV became a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ship was towed to Rotterdam after a period of lay-up in the UK. It was subsequently arrested in the Dutch port, although the Judicial Court of the District of Madeira, which exercised jurisdiction over the auction, would have delivered it to a new owner with a clean title.
Despite its advanced age, the Astoria underwent a complete rebuilding in the early 1990s that saw it stripped to the bare hull, re-engined and rebuilt as a modern cruiseship.
Its biggest claim to fame was when, as Swedish American Line’s Stockholm, it rammed and sank the 29,000-gt Italian transatlantic liner Andrea Doria (built 1951) off Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 1956.