Mystic Cruises buys Vasco da Gama

CMV cruise ship sold at auction

Vasco da Gama cruise ship
Vasco da Gama

Thanks to Jaime for a link to a report in Espresso that Mystic Cruises has acquired the cruise ship Vasco da Gama, previously owned by Cruise & Maritime Voyages, at an auction in the United Kingdom. The vessel has been a regular visitor to Madeira for many years.

The UK-based CMV cruise company was yet another victim of COVID-19, declaring insolvency on July 20. Nearly three months after the collapse, the UK Supreme Court ordered the sale of the ships to pay off debts. This is where the fast-growing and apparently fast-moving Portuguese shipowner Mário Ferreira moved in.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) started its activity in 2009 and operated mainly in the English, French, German and Australian markets, with a fleet of six ships, small and old.

The pandemic has changed a lot in the cruise business and, as in almost all sectors, has had devastating effects. CMV did not escape.

The economic difficulties had been going on for a long time when, in June, 47 crew members aboard the Astoria in the Thames estuary went on a hunger strike, in an attempt to obtain overdue wages and repatriation to their countries of origin. In addition to this protest, the list of creditors has grown, from mortgage holders, including Carnival Corporation, to fuel suppliers, who have filed a petition with the UK Supreme Court to order the seizure of ships.

Five vessels were seized; Vasco da Gama, Columbus, Megellan, Astor and Marco Polo. The sixth ship, Astoria, was not because it was chartered by Banco Montepio, to help pay the debt of around 150 million in the ruinous business of businessman Rui Alegre in the cruise industry.

The auctioneer and broker of ships CW Kellock & Co, with more than 150 years of experience in the United Kingdom, began to auction CMV’s vessels on 8 October. Vasco da Gama, which, before being arrested, went on sale for €16.8m, was the first to receive the proposals in a closed letter. Mário Ferreira, president of MysticInvest Holding, the company to which Mystic Cruises and Douroazul belongs, was the winner.

Expresso tried to find out from CW Kellock & Co what the amount of the transaction had been for the sale of the Vasco da Gama, but the auctioneer, who confirmed the sale, did not advance values ​​alleging secrecy, saying that the UK Supreme Court will publish all the details as soon as the delivery of the ship occurs. According to the ShipPax Information portal, the sale value was €9.5m.

Opportunity to grow

With COVID-19 paralyzing the cruise sector worldwide, insolvencies began. The first victim was Pulmanturl, which has already sent two ships to scrap in Aliaga, Turkey. The American giant Carnival also announced its intention to dispose of 18 ships, three of which are already being dismantled in Aliaga. Faced with this catastrophic scenario, Mário Ferreira saw here an opportunity to expand his fleet. In July, the businessman showed interest in acquiring one of the six cruise companies in the struggling American market. Mário Ferreira referred to companies that belonged to Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Group, with ships under 600 passengers.

Vasco da Gama: 1,258 passengers and 557 crew

Now Mystic Cruises has announced the expansion of its fleet, with the acquisition of Vasco da Gama. For the entrepreneur, it was an opportunity to position himself in the international market taking into account the expected recovery in the post-pandemic period. “Our focus is on smaller cruise ships, with less than a thousand passengers, which allow us to create a more personalized, safe and intimate experience for our guests,” said Mário Ferreira in a statement. “We believe that this segment of the market is better positioned to respond to what the cruise market will require in the near future.”

Currently anchored in Tilbury, United Kingdom, the Vasco da Gama, with a capacity for 1,258 passengers and 557 crew members, will operate for the British, German and Portuguese markets under the responsibility of Mystic Cruise. The court was scheduled to release the Vasco da Gama on 16 October, which should head to Portugal in mid-November, where it will enter dry dock to carry out maintenance and alterations, in order to reduce capacity to less than 1000 passengers.

This time, it will not be at Mário Ferreira’s safe harbour at the West Sea shipyards, in Viana do Castelo, because the huge Vasco da Gama, 210 metres long and 30.8 metres wide (wide), does not fit in dry dock Nº1 in Viana, which is only 190 metres by 29 metres. Instead, it will have to go to the Lisnave shipyards in Setúbal.

With a cost of €152m, Vasco da Gama was built at the Fincantieri shipyards in Trieste, Italy, and delivered in 1993 to Holland America Cruise Line, under the name of MS Statendam. The 55,451-ton vessel was part of Holland America’s fleet until 2014, when it was transferred to P&O Cruises Australia, a company also part of the Carnival Corporation group. In 2015, after being completely remodelled, it was renamed Pacific Eden, joining the P&O Cruises Australia fleet. In 2018 it was acquired by the company Cruise & Maritime Voyages, which renamed it Vasco da Gama, in honour of the famous Portuguese explorer of the 15th century, who completed the first sea voyage to India.

Mystic Cruises logo

With the acquisition of Vasco da Gama, Mystic Cruises adds another ocean vessel to its fleet, currently composed by World Explorer, which has resumed its activity and has been cruising the Ionian Sea and the Aegean since the 11th of September. Mediterranean, and the World Voyager, which was completed by West Sea shipyards in August but due to the pandemic, has not yet sailed with passengers. 

In addition to COVID-19 paralyzing the sector worldwide, many of the new constructions and orders have been cancelled or postponed by operators around the world. Mystic Cruises, by Mário Ferreira, was one of the few companies that did not suspend construction during this period. That is why it maintained the investment planned for this year of €110m for the purpose of developing two more ocean vessels.

On August 23, it was the turn of the third ocean vessel, the “World Navigator”, to perform the “float out”, when the valves that filled the dock with water and allowed the ship to float for the first time were opened. This first test marked a new phase in the construction of the package, which was transferred to the preparation basin. The ship, which is already in the final phase of finishing and testing, will only be delivered in April 2021. The World Traveler is the fifth ship and is already in the cutting phase, followed by two more. These last four expedition ships, with an estimated total value of €286.7m, will be marketed exclusively by Atlas Ocean Voyages, the American brand of Mystic Cruises.

“Personality of the Year” in the Global Cruise Industry

The investment in shipbuilding and development, in a year in which investment in the entire sector practically stopped or was postponed, was one of the reasons that led the Seatrade Cruise Awards, one of the most prestigious events in the cruise industry, to elect the Portuguese entrepreneur as personality of the year in the global cruise industry.

The 14th edition of the Seatrade Cruise Awards, dubbed as the Oscars of the cruise industry, where the largest companies in the world compete, took place on October 6, 2020, in a virtual ceremony, due to the pandemic of the COVID-19. Per Bjornsen, director of V. Ships Leisure, who presented the Personality of the Year award to Mário Ferreira, commented: “This year’s Personality led a dedicated team that has evolved from a regional river cruise operator to a global player with its own brand or in partnership with other operators. The company is ready for massive expansion on new ships using the latest technologies and was one of the first to restart operations with robust testing and operational protocols that demonstrate resilience in a challenging environment. ”

Mário Ferreira started his maritime-tourist activity in the Douro in 1982, with the purchase of the “Castelo” cacilheiro from Transtejo. In honor of the boat where he had worked for five years, he named it “Vistadouro”. The shipowner now manages a fleet of 54 vessels.

In addition to ocean vessels, Mário Ferreira owns a fleet of 23 vessels in the Douro, with fourteen hotel vessels, four Viking River Cruises hotel vessels but managed by Douro Azul, three Sightseeing rabelos and two luxury yachts. At the German company Nicko, acquired as a result of the company’s insolvency in 2015, it has a fleet of 29 hotel ships operating on the main rivers, such as Danube, Rhine, Elbe, Nile, Yangtze and Mekong, in China. In September, it acquired more than 3% of Saga, a British cruise and insurance group, where it invested around 11 million euros. Saga Cruises has two 58,250 ton ships, the Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure, delivered in September this year.

COVID-19 update for Madeira

The latest statistics are being updated on a previous post

1 thought on “Mystic Cruises buys Vasco da Gama”

  1. We had a cruise on the sister ship Marco Polo several years ago. Previously it had been a Russian cruise ship built in East Germany and unlike normal cruise ships the hull was strengthened at the bow making her an ice-breaker!

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