The 12,500-ton, 400-passenger Regent Spirit was sold at auction for about $3.5 million on May 30 and will begin sailing as the cruise ship Salamis Glory this summer from Cyprus.

The ship's new owner is Salamis Lines of Cyprus which intends to sail the vessel on week-long cruises from Cyprus to Egypt, Israel, Greece and possibly Lebanon. A likely start date for the cruise programs is mid- or late-July.

The Regent Spirit, formerly operated by bankrupt regency Cruises, has been tied up in Nice, France since Regency declared bankruptcy last October.

The ship was first put up for auction by the German bank which holds the ship mortgage in early May, but no prospective bidders responded to the $7 million starting price. The minimum price was slashed by 50 percent for last week's auction, and it is believed that Salamis was the sole bidder.

According to a lawyer handling the auction process, the ship had been valued at $9 million to $10 million.

The Regent Spirit will undergo technical and cosmetic refurbislunent in Piraeus this month, according to Vassos Hadjitheodossiou, Chairman and majority owner of Salamis. "The ship is in very good shape, but we will refurbish her to bring the ship up to the standards of middle- and upper-income western Europeans," said Hadjitheodossiou.

This move represents Salamis' first entry into the cruise business, although the company does have experience in the leisure and seagoing vacation markets. According to Hadjitheodossiou, Salamis operates a ferry service between Cyprus, Israel and Greece and has a tour operation, which is expected to feed clients into the cruise programs.

In fact, the prime markets for Salamis land tours are the U.K., Germany, Austria and Holland, he added. Salamis has also served as shipping agent for Costa Cruise Lines and Renaissance Cruises vessels, noted Hadjitheodossiou. Salamis represents the latest entry in the European cruise market in which second-hand ships, which have formerly been promoted to a North American audience, have been acquired for startup cruise ventures.