With an investment north of 20 million euro, Rui Alegre has bought and is in the process of refurbishing four of the Classic International Cruises’ ships, the Porto (ex-Arion), Lisboa (ex-Princess Danae), Azores (ex-Athena) and the Funchal under the banner of Portuscale Cruises.
Alegre, who is chairman and CEO of the new venture, has no cruise experience, but does bring to the table a hospitality background as a former CEO of a group that developed more than 40 hotels and three casinos.
“The sustainable growth in the cruise market and the classic style of these ships were the deciding factor,” said Alegre, in an interview with Cruise Industry News. “Portuscale Cruises is a new cruise company starting its activity with four owned classic vessels, with a ‘small is beautiful’ approach.”
Alegre explained the start-up was running its own hotel and marine operations, and so far, the hardest part has been an aggressive project time-line to bring the ships to market.
In fact, the company has already printed a brochure for the Funchal, which features a 46-day voyage from Lisbon to Northern Europe starting in August. That voyage is also sold in segments, ranging from seven to 12 days and going as far as the North Cape.
Stateroom prices start at just under 1,000 euro for an inside cabin on the 10-day maiden cruise, which features calls in Oporto, Villagarcia de Arousa, Brest, Oostende and Gothenburg.
Initial deployment runs through a 10-day Azores island cruise in late September. All voyages already feature an extensive shore excursion program.
“We will operate both charter and self-cruise operations,” Alegre continued. “Corporate cruises will also be addressed due to the flexibility and appropriate size of our fleet.”
As far as the ships - a new color scheme is being applied and the Funchal - the line's "flagship" - is undergoing a total refurbishment to upgrade her to a four-star, 244-stateroom product.
The Lisboa will also see a significant drydocking, with her 300-staterooms being ready to sail by September.
Both those ships will get new spas, upgraded bars and more as Alegre is planning to offer wine theme cruises.
“Portuscale Cruises will deliver consciously a sustainable cruise operation with focus on service, experience and personality with a first call on safety,” he said.