We’re going to be doing a series of blogs titled ‘The Rise and Fall of : …’. These will investigate the business decisions and influences that caused some cruise businesses to end services. Our intentions are to run an article on each of the on the following: Regency Cruises, First European/Festival Cruises & Royal Olympic Cruises and of course Premier Cruises. We hope you enjoy them and if you have anything to say about any of the above get in contact with us: Liam@Crociere.co.uk, Comment below or Facebook or Twitter.
Regency Cruises was found in 1984 with the Regent Sea (Get the terrible pun?) by two former directors of Paquet Line. The original business plan called for former ocean liners converted for cruising with the aim of running these cruises offering first class service, comparable of the ‘golden age of sea travel’. The company was shown to have a very successful first season, after which ownership reverted to The Lelakis Group, who were the owner of the vessel, from then on in the cruise line quickly developed adding Regent Star in 1986 and Regent Sun 1987.
It is discussed on cruise message boards across the internet that under Lelakis the Regency Cruise product was changed, with an emphasis on costs the product was evolved into that of a budget cruise line, with Regency’s previously high standards said to dropped significantly during this time
The same message boards play host to comments about the impending collapse of the cruise line. It is reported that the Captain of the Regent Star sent a Telex, remember this is before emails and the internet, saying ‘We were just arrested by the French authorities. Now what?‘, Interestingly by the time the Regent Star finished the cruise the Line had entered bankruptcy, and an agent for the bank had to assist passengers getting home.
Another makes a comment about a cruise on the Regent Star, and how a few months before bankruptcy they had been told by the cruise director that they would not be able to transit the Panama Canal, in the eventuality they did manage to transit the canal, the likely reason for this being problems paying the canal fees.
Devils on the Deep Blue Sea, one of our favourite books says that the cruise line was spectacular at staying operating in its final days, When the toilets broke on Regent Sun, were most lines would have cancelled the cruise, Regency just provided several portable toilets, which were loaded onto the aft deck. Also when the air-conditioning system failed on the same ship, it was not repaired just lied about. Embarking Passengers who questioned about the heat were advised it was due to the holds in the vessel being opened during changeover day an that once the vessel was underway the vessel would cool down as the air-conditioning would kick in, of course not being true, it didn’t work, but what where they going to do, jump overboard?
The same book says that when a vessel was arrested on behalf of a creditor by the Honduran authorities the hotel manager offered a lifeboat and a room steward as collateral to continue the cruise.
The day before Halloween the company finally collapsed, in the words of the trade press the company had ‘Abandoned its ships as sea, turned on its answering machines at its New York head office and left several hundred passengers to fend for themselves.’
In total around 30,000 passengers joined the list of creditors to reclaim the money against the line. Staff had been unpaid for weeks, and following the bankruptcy where left stranded around the world on empty cruise ships, the staff sold televisions and other fixtures onboard to make money to buy food, the ships safes where quickly emptied to buy food for the struggling employees.
There are numerous reasons for the collapse, but the cruise line had grown quickly in its final years and competition had increased, the low-cost value nature of the product, as well as operating older vessels left the company at a disadvantage, the cost of keeping the vessels operating in line with SOLAS guidelines was huge.
By the time of collapse the line had grown to seven ships; Regent Star, Regent Sea, Regent Sun, Regent Jewel, Regent Spirit, Regent Rainbow, with the Regent Sky under construction, upon the collapse the shipyard stopped work and the ship is currently still awaiting to be finished. A few of the ships saw service again:
– Regent Jewel as Calypso for Louis Cruises
– Regent Spirit saw service as Salamis Glory
– Regent Rainbow as the Emerald for Louis Cruises & Thomson Cruises
The rest of the fleet either sunk or was scrapped.