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Athena cruises in doubt
West Australians who booked cruises onboard the Athena, face having their holiday plans cancelled. Picture: Supplied

Thousands of West Australians who booked cruises onboard luxury ship Athena, face having their holiday plans cancelled after the liner’s parent company went into administration today.

In a dramatic 12th hour turnaround, the Sydney-based Classic International Cruises Australia announced the recovery and insolvency team at Lawler Partners would be appointed voluntary administrators, putting its Australian summer cruise season in serious doubt.

Four CIC ships, including Athena, had been arrested in Europe, reportedly for unpaid crew wages and fuel bills.

Although the financial issues relate to the European owners of the CIC ships, and not to CIC Australia, the Athena is being held by authorities and will not sail to Australia.

CIC Australia last week issued a statement that it would bring the cruise ship Delphin to replace Athena but this deal fell through on Tuesday due to scheduling difficulties.

CIC Australia managing director Grant Hunter said today that the Australian company was put into voluntary administration primarily to isolate its money from the problems of the European owners. He said the move had essentially “ringlocked” the money of the 6000 people who have booked for the Australian season.

Mr Hunter said the decision would also give them time to look for another suitable ship.

Tapping resident Christine Ewens and her family are among 500 passengers booked on 12-night cruise scheduled to depart Fremantle on December 18 bound for Bali and Broome.

Ms Ewens said she was devastated to hear her holiday plans were now in disarray.

“We saved up all year, working overtime for this family Christmas holiday and now to hear that it might not happen, we’re absolutely devastated.”

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said affected passengers should contact the administrator to register their details, as well as their travel agent who will be regularly updated by the administrator on alternative arrangements.

Further information on refund rights and updates on the situation can be obtained from Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or email consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au.