Cruise operator Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) has emerged as the buyer of two Crystal Cruises cruise ships sold at auction earlier this month.

The company, which is backed by cruise veteran Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio confirmed it had purchased the 68,900-gt Crystal Serenity (built 2003) and 51,000-gt Crystal Symphony (built 1995).

A&K Travel Group said the two ships will resume service in 2023 after undergoing extensive refurbishment and will operate under the Crystal Cruises brand which it has also acquired.

TradeWinds reported last week that the two ships had been sold for a combined $128m at a Bahamas auction, but the identity of the buyers was not revealed at the time.

The Crystal Serenity was sold for $103m and the Crystal Symphony went for $25m, lawyers acting for creditor DNB Bank told the Bahamas’ Tribune newspaper.

VesselsValue had put a scrap value of $22.2m and a trading value of $87.4m on the Crystal Serenity and a scrap value of $17m and a trading value of only $18.2m on the Crystal Symphony when the pair were put up for sale via a sealed tender auction in late May.

“I am thrilled to start this new chapter and to be back in an industry that has always had, and always will have a special place in my heart,” said Lefebvre.

“Thirty-five years ago, my family acquired control of Sitmar Cruises, building three of the first purpose-built cruise ships, and 30 years ago my family pioneered a new way of cruising.”

Lefebvre said selling the cruise business that belonged to his family for a quarter of a century was a “difficult decision, as I knew I would miss this industry immensely”.

“Therefore, when the opportunity arose to acquire Crystal Cruises, I did not think about it twice. Having next to me my incredible friend and inspiring leader Geoffrey Kent makes this venture even more enjoyable,” he added.

A&K Travel Group said it has partnered with V.Ships Leisure to manage the two ships, describing the Monaco-based ship manager as the “natural choice”.

CMC Capital, Limited advised A&K Travel Group in the acquisition.

Lefebvre agreed a takeover deal for A&K in February 2019 in a deal that saw private investment company Heritage Group take an 85% stake in the company with A&K founder Geoffrey Kent retaining a 15% stake.

Industry sources said that Lefebvre had been eyeing up Crystal and its ships even before the collapse of its parent Genting Hong Kong.