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Cruise ship debts leave tourists stranded

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  • Hundreds of tourists stuck in Portugal cruise ship impounded due to debts
  • Dutch-owned Van Gogh in Madeira Islands carrying 430 passengers, 220 crew
  • Ship's operator allegedly has outstanding debts with suppliers
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(CNN) -- Several hundred passengers on a luxury round-the-world cruise-ship tour were stuck Thursday on an island in the Atlantic Ocean after the vessel's owners ran into legal troubles.

The 460 passengers and 200 crew members were marooned after their cruise ship sailed into a port in the Madeira Islands, a Portuguese archipelago about 684 kilometers (425 miles) west of Morocco.

Portuguese authorities detained the ship -- the Van Gogh -- on Tuesday because of a legal claim against the ship's owners, said Marcus Neal, operations manager for Van Gogh Cruises. They seized it in the port of Funchal, a city of about 100,000.

The passengers were making their next-to-last stop on a 93-day cruise around the world. They paid between $12,000 and $44,000 for the voyage.

Passengers are able to leave the ship, said British actress Shirley Ann Field, who was among those on board, but she said most were staying put until the dispute was resolved.

"It's better just to stay here and see what happens," she told CNN.

Neal said he hoped the dispute would be resolved soon.

The Van Gogh is owned by a Dutch company called Club Cruise, and it had been chartered for years by a separate company, Travelscope Holidays.

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When Travelscope ran into financial trouble in December, Club Cruise reached an agreement to let administrators run Travelscope. The administrators claim Club Cruise broke its contract with Travelscope.

Van Gogh Cruises, which operates the ship, said it did not know why the administrators launched their claim shortly before the end of the cruise, rather than afterwards. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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