Oceania Cruises' Nautica - which is currently in drydock at T. Mariotti in Genoa - will stay at the Italian yard for extensive interior refurbishments instead of heading to the Port Of Marseilles as originally planned for the work. A trade union strike, which has since seemingly been settled, interrupted ship traffic in Marseilles and prevented the Nautica from undergoing work there.

A spokesman for Oceania told Cruise Industry News the line had to reroute several hundred contractors and corresponding materials that were already in place in Marseilles. "Eighty percent of the materials were already in France and we had to arrange for overland transportation," he said. "We bit the bullet and paid for the location change."

The Nautica (ex-Bi) is set to emerge with her new look either November 15 or 16, he said - after which she will sail to Istanbul for her renaming ceremony. Charter The Nautica - as well as Oceania's two other ships, the Regatta and the Insignia - are all long-term charters from Cruiseinvest, with a purchase option. The latter two are the former Renaissance Cruises ships R2 and R.L respectively.

Leasing the ships has proved to work well for Oceania, which started sailing in 2003, the spokesman said. "The advantages are on cost," he said. "It was a crazy offer that the owner put on the table for the leases. The owner's intent was to get them back in service with an operator and lease them out at a lower price to ensure that the operator would be able to firmly establish themselves and turn a profit from the very start." Though he declined to divulge the terms of the lease or the line's revenues or profits, he did say that the line became profitable in August 2003.

Option to Buy

"What they want is for us to buy the vessels outright," the spokesman said. "Frank Del Rio (CEO) definitely has his eye on it."

He went on to say that the line "is in a bit of a quiet period" in terms of acquisition talks, though he also noted that Oceania would expect Cruiseinvest to give the line a good deal on the ships. "Our operating costs would decrease when we purchase the vessels," he said, adding that the line is in a long-term charter agreement in five-year increments, with each ship operating under separate leases.

And while the spokesman couldn't say when a possible purchase might happen, he did note that Del Rio's objective "has always been to purchase the vessels before we hit the five-year mark on each one."