A cruise ship that was supposed to dock in Miami has instead sailed to the Bahamas, after a US judge granted an order to seize the vessel as part of a lawsuit over $6 million in unpaid fuel.
Cruise trackers show Crystal Symphony currently docked in the Bahamian island of Bimini.
"We all feel we were abducted by luxurious pirates!" passenger Stephen Heard Fales posted on Facebook.
Some passengers were taken by ferry to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday. The ferry ride was apparently "uncomfortable due to inclement weather," according to a statement from a Crystal Cruises spokesperson. The company said guests were also taken to local airports, but wouldn't comment on the lawsuit.
It was not immediately clear how many passengers were aboard, with one news outlet reporting 300 and another, 700. According to the company website, the vessel can carry up to 848 passengers.
The ship was scheduled to arrive in Miami on Saturday. But a federal judge there issued an arrest warrant for the ship Thursday, a maritime practice where a US Marshal goes aboard a vessel and takes charge of it once it enters US waters.
Passengers and entertainers said on social media they were surprised to find out about the legal case. One guest posted a letter on Facebook from Crystal Cruises Management that said the change in itinerary was due to "non-technical operational issues."
Elio Pace, a musician who has toured off and on with the ship since 2013, said about about 30-50 crew disembarked because their contracts ended. Another 400 crew members don't know when they'll get off, or if they'll remain employed.
"This is a human story. This is about people and their jobs," Pace told The Associated Press.
The lawsuit was filed in a Miami federal court by Peninsula Petroleum Far East against the ship under a maritime procedure that allows actions against vessels for unpaid debts. The complaint says Crystal Symphony was chartered or managed by Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises, which are both sued for breach of contract for allegedly owing US$4.6 million in fuel.
Last week the Crystal Cruises said it was pausing operations through April 29 after its parent company Genting Hong Kong reported cash-flow problems.
"This was an extremely difficult decision but a prudent one given the current business environment and recent developments with our parent company, Genting Hong Kong," said Crystal Cruises president Jack Anderson, last week.
Symphony is one of three itineraries still at sea on current sailings: Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony are still in the Caribbean and Crystal Endeavor is returning from Antarctica. The Symphony's cruise was due to end Miami on Friday 22 January, the Serenity's in Aruba on 30 January and the Endeavor's in Ushuaia, Argentina, on 4 February.
- Associated Press with additional reporting