Exclusive: Scenic will put out a statement as early as next week on the launch of its revolutionary new luxury expedition ship Scenic Eclipse, which has been battling the growing problems facing the Croatian shipyard building the vessel.
Scenic owner Glen Moroney, a pioneer of the Australian cruise industry, has personally been working tirelessly to keep the launch of the vessel’s inaugural journeys on track for the New Year, visiting the yard each week with wife Karen.
Mr Moroney told Cruise Passenger a statement on progress would be issued next week.
This week, the board of shipbuilder Uljanik quit as striking workers, frozen bank accounts and project cancellations put a question mark over the yard’s commercial viability.
Italian builders Fincantieri and others have bids on the table for the troubled yard, where workers claim they have not been paid since August.
Scenics Eclipse – and a second $250 million expedition sister ship – are being completed at the yard.
Eclipse is already in the water, and according to Scenic’s website, workers are toiling round the clock to complete her.
“There are over 700 workers on day shifts during the week, over 150 on evening shifts and 450 on Saturdays, so the interior fit-out continues at pace and the engine and associated systems commissioning has commenced,” a special message from Mr Moroney says on the company website.
“This progress has been achieved despite the shipyard experiencing significant financial issues which among other things led to recent strike action (now resolved). The Uljanik group are working with the Croatian Government and the European Union’s Competition Authority to develop a restructuring plan and we hope this process will be completed soon.
“Given the yard’s challenges, Scenic took full ownership of Eclipse some time ago and has contracted suppliers directly and funded the project entirely to ensure continuation of the build.
“Despite the difficult environment, Scenic’s supervisory team, along with Uljanik’s management and production workers, are totally focused on the ships completion. Due to the shipyards financial situation and strike action we have faced some delays, but we continue to address these as they arise.
“On the positive side both Karen and I attend the shipyard in Pula every week and see a very special ship coming to life. No computer generated image or even the video you see here can truly portray the presence of the ship close up. As the public spaces and cabins come together, our entire team become more excited about the experiences we will deliver.”
The Scenic website still lists her first journey as a 12-day trip to Antarctica on January 28.
Booking clerks told Cruise Passenger they would only take bookings for March 2 and beyond, with full payment required within 24 hours. In the case of an Antarctica 21-day cruise for two, that would be $90,990 for a spa suite.
The Scenic Eclipse has already had her launch date postponed by five months once – she was due to start cruising in August, 2018. Now, she is due to start in late January 2019.
The Eclipse project is the dawn of a new era for Scenic, known for luxury all-inclusive river cruising.
Like Viking, which already has six ocean ships on the water, Scenic appears determined to get a stake in the burgeoning luxury ocean cruise market.
Its first ocean cruise ship is a major investment for the group. The revolutionary vessel, complete with helicopters and submarines and special ice rating, has caused a sensation in expedition cruising and a massive advertising blitz in Australia and Europe has been running for some time.
On her first cancellation, some passengers complained they had had their holiday plans upset and were not told early enough about the delay.
A further delay would be a bitter blow, and Scenic’s team are making huge efforts to avoid it.
According to local news reports, Mr Moroney offered striking workers three more new-builds if they would return to work to complete his ship. There have been rumours the ship could move, or that Scenic might bail out the yard.
According to the site Total Croatia News, workers at the yard are maintaining their strike after failing to receive wages for September and Croatia’s finance minister is assessing plans for the yard’s future.
It’s been a tough few weeks for Scenic.
Late last month, the Appeal Court only partially upheld its bid to stop millions of dollars in payouts to passengers after it was found to have failed to offer proper compensation after floods halted its river cruising program five years ago.