Liverpool-based hotel group Signature Living has tasked UK-based shipbrokers CW Kellock & Co to conduct a private auction of a veteran Portuguese cruiseship it had intended to use as a party boat in Ibiza.

The 9,600-gt Funchal (built 1961) will be sold to the submitter of the highest bid received at the CW Kellock office in London by Friday 29 January 2021.

Demolition offers will also be entertained, according to an update circulated through broking channels.

The move comes a year after Signature Living put the Funchal on the sales market as a trading vessel with an asking price of €3.9m ($4.7m).

That figure was the same price that Signature Living spent to buy the ship at an auction in Lisbon in December 2018.

The company back then had big plans to turn the classic old cruiseship into “the world’s ultimate floating beach club”, which would operate overnight party cruises out of the Spanish island playground.

Party boat

The hospitality group promised a “first of its kind, exclusive beach club cruise” that would be “decked out with luxury accommodation, a deluxe swimming pool, amazing bars and restaurants and on-deck entertainment from the world’s top DJs”.

But these plans looked doomed from the start.

The company took almost a year to pay for the ship, requiring several extensions before the amount was paid in full only in October 2019. Ownership was only then transferred to SGL Cruises, a Madeira-registered offshore company.

Two months later, before any refitting took place, the party boat idea was dropped and the ship offered for sale.

Signature Living first held firm on its price expectations for the ship, which required a substantially larger amount of cash to be refitted and certified for further trading.

However, the asking price began to drop as business at its land-based “party hotels”, described as the perfect venues for “hen parties” and “stag do’s”, suffered severely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In June administrators were called in to restructure and save the business.

Storied past

Portuscale Cruises upgraded the passenger accommodation of the Funchal to a luxury standard in 2013, but brokers reported a lot more technical work was still required. Photo: Portuscale Cruises

The Funchal, with its capacity for 500 passengers, is currently one of the oldest cruiseships afloat.

The ship was built by Danish shipbuilder Helsingor Skibsvaerft for Portuguese state-owned shipping company Empresa Insulana de Navegacao to operate liner services and worldwide cruises.

It was also used occasionally as the Portuguese presidential yacht.

Sold in 1984 to George Potamianos’s Classic International Cruises, the Funchal became a very popular cruiseship during the three decades it operated for the Greco-Portuguese shipowner.

Startup Portuscale Cruises acquired the ship in 2013 and put it through a major accommodation refurbishment before returning it to cruise service in 2014.

This venture proved short-lived and collapsed into bankruptcy within two years.

Since then the ship has been laid up near Lisbon, looked after by a small maintenance team.

Brokers that inspected the vessel prior to the December 2018 auction told TradeWinds that despite its luxurious new interiors, it still required a lot of technical work.