Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) has cancelled all its cruises and called in the administrators, becoming the largest cruise casualty of the pandemic so far.

A notice appeared on the UK-based cruise operator’s website on Monday evening indicating that South Quays Travel — the name under which CMV is legally registered — had gone into administration.

German and French subsidiary Transocean Kreuzfahrten and Croisieres Maritimes & Voyages were also included.

Paul Williams, Phil Dakin and Edward Bines of independent valuation firm Duff & Phelps have been appointed as administrators.

The notice said that all cruise bookings that have not taken place have been cancelled but are protected by the Association of British Travel Agents.

Industry insiders said CMV had been scouring the financial markets in recent months, seeking additional funding to see it through the pandemic.

The company’s reputation was badly damaged in June when Indian crew members trapped on its ships docked in UK ports due to global travel bans launched social media protest campaigns highlighting their plight.

The online protests garnered widespread negative coverage for the company in British mainstream media and led to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency stepping into the fray and detaining the ship.

The crew members were later repatriated, but the reputational damage for the company had been done.

“CMV was facing the same crewing problems as every other cruise line. The protests were targeted at the Indian government, but CMV ended up looking like the bad guy,” a source close to the company explained.

“The tabloids followed this up with reports on how the company was in talks with lenders to raise more cash, questioning its overall viability. This led to a major drop in forward bookings. No bank wants to touch a company that has had such a drubbing in the media.”

New ships

Carnival Corp's Pacific Dawn was scheduled to join the CMV fleet in March next year. Photo: CMV

CMV expanded rapidly over the past five years to become the largest of the cruise industry’s second-tier players — companies that operate at the budget end of the market using small to mid-sized tonnage sourced on secondhand market.

Prior to the coronavirus shutdown, CMV operated six ships: the 16,100-gt Astoria (built 1947), 20,700-gt Astor (built 1987), 46,100-gt Magellan (built 1985), 22,100-gt Marco Polo (built 1965), 63,800-gt Columbus (built 1989) and 55,900-gt Vasco da Gama (built 1993).

Deals to add two more ships, the 55,900-gt Pacific Aria (built 1994) and 70,300-gt Pacific Dawn (built 1991), were lined up with Carnival Corp in November 2019. The pair were scheduled to join the CMV and Transocean fleets next year.

With the exception of the Astoria, which is chartered from the administrators of Lisbon-based Portuscale Cruises, the entire fleet is chartered from Global Maritime Group of Greece, whose principals are believed to be major CMV shareholders.

Global Maritime subsidiary Global Cruise Lines provides technical and hotel management services to all the ships.

CMV is the third cruise operator to close over the past month. Pullmantur Cruises filed for insolvency in late June, while Birka Cruises was shut down in early July.