Stelios all at sea after gales cause trouble for easyCruise

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The Independent Travel

As with the Titanic, so with easyCruiseOne: the seas have exacted a price on a maiden voyage. Fortunately for the 170 passengers and 54 crew aboard the sole vessel of the easyCruise fleet, no icebergs were involved.

As with the Titanic, so with easyCruiseOne: the seas have exacted a price on a maiden voyage. Fortunately for the 170 passengers and 54 crew aboard the sole vessel of the easyCruise fleet, no icebergs were involved.

But an angry Mediterranean, aggravated by Force 8 gales, meant a seafood lunch and afternoon on the beach in the millionaires' playground of St Tropez was abandoned. Instead, passengers ate burgers on board en route to the port of Toulon, described by the Rough Guide to France as a ''squalid naval base''.

The easyCruise line is the latest venture from Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of easyJet. The slogan for his refurbished passenger ship, painted bright orange, is "Party in St Tropez, wake up in Monte Carlo". But this morning passengers on the maiden voyage will wake up in Toulon.

Yesterday easyCruiseOne left Cannes on what should have been a two-hour voyage to St Tropez. But shortly after sailing, a mistral wind sprang up, gusting to 55mph. The captain had intended to anchor off St Tropez and ferry passengers ashore, but high seas made this too dangerous. With supplies of chilled rosé exhausted, and passengers needing to get home, the captain decided to make for Toulon, four more hours away in rough seas.

The ship's owner was philosophical. "I remember the early days of easyJet when I used to get involved in weather diversions with aeroplanes, and it feels about the same," Mr Haji-Ioannou said. "People are panicking and trying to figure out how they're going to rearrange their lives, but we'll sort it out." He arranged buses to take passengers to St Tropez, but many stayed on in Toulon.

The port's naval ratings may be perplexed. Some of the easyCruisers, possibly unwisely, were still wearing the orange "Hello Sailor" caps they had been given.

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