The little ocean liner turned cruise ship Funchal, which was once the Portuguese presidential yacht, has been bought at auction by a UK-based hotel group and will be turned into a floating hotel in London, according to Cruise Industry News.
The cruise ship was reportedly purchased for US $4.4-million by Signature Living at the bank auction, which saw four bidders express interest in the ship. The British hospitality company was represented by John Hanbidge of QPS Marine Ships/Cruise Ventures, which released a statement afterwards.
“Signature Living and QPS Marine Ships have been negotiating for almost two years with the bankruptcy administrator and the main creditor for the purchase of the vessel,” it said.
Signature Living’s website indicates that the company specializes in party hotels and avant-garde party venues, suggesting the cruise ship turned hotel Funchal might serve as a major nightlife spot in the heart of London, similar to the former tender ship MV Cill Airne in Dublin, Ireland.
The plans call for the ship to be moved from Lisbon to London and converted into a hotel ship, meaning that London will finally join the ranks of Dubai (QE2), Long Beach (Queen Mary) and Rotterdam (SS Rotterdam) in getting its own floating hotel.
Funchal has been laid-up in Portugal since 2015 when her previous owners Portuscale Cruises filed for bankruptcy.
The ship had just completed a major multi-million dollar refit and refurbishment to make her SOLAS 2010 compliant, while also upgrading the power plant, passenger and crew cabins and public lounges.
At just 152-metres, and with a passenger capacity of 520, Funchal was one of the smallest cruise ships in operation while still in service, and is the last of a proud line of Portuguese ocean liners.
For three years the risk of being sold for scrap has hung over the ship, just as it did for her more famous ocean liner fleetmates QE2 and Rotterdam before they too were spared. It’s unclear what changes will be made to the vessel to prepare her for life as a permanently berthed hotel ship, but hopefully her lifeboats will be spared, along with her engine room.