Mystic Cruises

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Review of Mystic Cruises

Mystic Cruises ( is a new cruise company (Oporto Portugal-based subsidiary) owned by Mystic Invest SGPS SA (shipowner). The parent company is the Ferreira family-owned Portuguese financial holding with brands mainly in the travel tourism and leisure industries.

Currently, Mystic Invest fully owns four cruise shipping companies (and travel brands) - Mystic Cruises (USA), ATLAS OCEAN VOYAGES/AOV (North America), NICKO CRUISES (Germany/fleet, and DOUROAZUL (Portugal-based riverboats,

Due to the COVID crisis, all Mystic-owned cruise brands (Nicko, DouroAzul, AOV-Atlas Ocean) canceled voyages fleetwide between March 2020 and May 2021.

Company History

Mystic Cruises is a brand owned by the Portuguese entrepreneur Mario Ferreira - CEO and President of Mystic Invest SGPS (group of companies/ and best known as CEO of the Portuguese river cruisetour company Douro Azul operating on Douro River. Mario Ferreira is also famous for being Portugal's first space tourist (traveling on Virgin Galactic's Spaceship One / owned by Richard Branson).

Mystic Cruises logo - CruiseMapper

Mystic Invest fully owns several brands specializing in the travel and tourism businesses (cruises, tours, hotels) and real estate.

The list of brands (subsidiaries) owned by the parent company Mystic Invest Holding includes DouroAzul (Portugal), Mystic Cruises (USA), Atlas Ocean Voyages (North America/USA and Canada), Nicko Cruises (Germany, via Schiffsreisen GmbH), Priority Dolphin (shipbuilding), Mystic Tua (Portugal), Mystic Adventure (tour agency in Barca d'Alva), World of Discoveries (theme park in Porto Portugal), Helitours (Porto and Douro Valley), BlueBus (Oporto), Caminho das Estrelas (suborbital and Zero-G flights), Mystic Real Estate, as well as several luxury hotels and resorts (Hotel do Cais, Monumental Palace Hotel, Douro Marina Hotel, Wine Lodge Hotel).

Nicko Cruises logo - CruiseMapper

In late-April 2019, Mystic Invest announced plans to establish and launch in 2021 the new subsidiary company "Mystic Cruises USA". Mystic Cruises is headquartered in Florida (Fort Lauderdale), served by 20-60 employees, and is currently led by Alberto Aliberti (CEO and President).

On November 14, 2019, was introduced the new (adventure-luxe) brand "Atlas Ocean Voyages" which is managed by Mystic Cruises USA. Bookings were opened on January 2, 2020, with the operations scheduled to start on July 7, 2021 (World Navigator). Early-booking promos included per-cabin savings (up to USD 2000) and half deposits.

AOV-Atlas Ocean Voyages logo - CruiseMapper

In early-June 2019, Certares GBT Holdings Ltd (NYC-based global company specializing in travel, tourism and hospitality investments, subsidiary of Certares Management LLC) became a shareholder (40%) in Mystic Invest Holding for EUR 250 million (~USD 294 million). The Ferreira family is the majority stake owner (60%) of Mystic Invest's cruise companies (DouroAzul Portugal, Nicko Cruises, Mystic Cruises USA, Atlas Ocean Voyages USA) and full owner of the holding's non-cruise subsidiaries.

Mystic Invest fully owns (100%) the WestSEA Shipyard (shipbuilding/repairs yard in Viana do Castelo, Portugal) where the Holding is currently building its new expedition cruise ships.

Ocean ships

Mystic Cruises' ocean fleet is under the AOV brand. However, some of these ships are seasonally chartered to other cruise lines (small companies and independent tour operators), including Quark Expeditions and Riviera Travel UK/fleet.

Mystic Cruises ship

All ocean ships are operated by Mystic Cruises USA's brand "Atlas Ocean Voyages"/AOV. These include World Navigator (2021), World Voyager (2021), World Traveller (2022), World Seeker (2023), World Discoverer (2023), World Adventurer (2024). For the construction of all these units was contracted the shipbuilder WestSEA (naval shipyard in Viana do Castelo, Portugal).


Each vessel features an ice-strengthened hull (allowing year-round operations in polar regions), LOA length 126 m (413 ft), width 19 m (62 ft), GT tonnage/volume 9300 tons, max passenger capacity 200 (max 176 on polar itineraries), crew capacity 125, 8 decks (2 with cabins), 86 staterooms, shipbuilding cost EUR 70 million (USD 80 million) - or EUR 350,000 (~USD 395K) per berth.

On May 16, 2019, Mystic Cruises signed a partnership with Adonis AS (provider of maritime HR / human resources support and solutions) for the ocean fleet's management. Adonis Maritime HR Suite includes services like staff recruitment, crewing and payroll.

On October 13, 2020, Mystic Invest purchased at an auction (sales price USD 10,187 million) Vasco da Gama after the previous shipowner (Cruise & Maritime Voyages/CMV UK) filed for bankruptcy in July.

Ship technology

Ship design was developed by Leadship Ltd (Piraeus Greece-based company) owned by Italian naval Architects Giuseppe Tringali and Mirco Zoia. It features an ice-strengthened hull (ice class 1B), top-notch automation and control system, modern propulsion (based on electrical pods / 360-degree azimuthing thrusters), dynamic positioning system (using GPS data to accurately maintain ship's position without anchoring), advanced water treatment system, hybrid powerplant (diesel-electric) with efficient marine engines (two Rolls-Royce engines running on ULSD / ultra-low-sulfur diesel).

The Rolls-Royce powerplant costs GBP 7 million (EUR 7,75 million / 8,9 million) and includes two main engines (Bergen C25-33L8P) and one auxiliary dual-fuel genset (Bergen C25-33L6P). The engines are connected to the vessel's electric power system (Rolls-Royce SAVe CUBE) allowing them to operate efficiently at variable speeds. Rolls-Royce Promas propulsion is an integrated propeller-rudder system to optimize hydrodynamic efficiency. Promas includes two controllable pitch propellers integrated with two flap rudders, steering gears and tunnel thrusters.

The vessel's draft is only 15 ft (4,7 m) allowing access to remote islands and unique coastal destinations. The ship has all 2 lifeboats (full-capacity) which are fully enclosed. Ship-to-shore communications are via Inmarsat Capsat Fleet 77 (satellite phone and Internet). Landings (passenger transportation) and coastal exploration voyages are served by the ship's own fleet of ten Zodiacs (motorized boats stored aft on Deck 7) and 2 loading stations.

Mystic Cruises ship

The shipbuilder WestSEA is owned by Martifer Group via the subsidiary Martifer SGPS. This is a family-owned holding company founded in 1990 (by the brothers Carlos and Jorge Martins), headquartered in Oliveira de Frades (Portugal) and Euronext Lisbon (stock exchange) listed since 2007. Martifer Group has over 3000 employees and specializes in metal construction and (since 2004) in renewable energy (wind and solar energy equipment production). Martifer Group is one of Europe's largest metal construction companies, with subsidiaries in Spain, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Brazil and Angola.


The two Mystic Invest-owned European river cruise companies - "DouroAzul" (Portugal) and "Nicko Cruises" (Germany) - operate mainly modern newbuild riverboats deployed, respectively, on Douro River (in Portugal) and on Seine-Rhone rivers (in France) and on Moselle-Rhine-Main-Danube rivers (in Central Europe). Almost all boats are built after the year 2000 and have 4 decks and capacity between 80-180 passengers (Portugal-based ships are smaller).

Mystic Cruises also has riverboats chartered to other brands, including Uniworld (Queen Isabel) and AmaWaterways (AmaDouro).

In the UK, Nicko Cruises operates through Light Blue Travel (direct and trade sales). Nicko's Duoro River cruise prices start from GBP 1400 per person (double occupancy). Fares are inclusive of return economy flights and land transfers in Portugal, all shipboard meals, unlimited drinks (wine, beer, cocktails, all soft and hot drinks), onboard gratuities, Wi-Fi, 4 guided shore excursions, port taxes.


Nicko Cruises (Stuttgart-headquartered) in 2021 joined CLIA Europe. In the UK, the brand is represented by Light Blue Travel Ltd (Cambridge-based travel agency).

Nicko Cruises' current CEO/Chief Commercial Officer is Guido Laukamp. He was promoted in May 2023 (from his position of Managing Director) while Michael Baden (previously Sea Cloud Cruises' Sales Director) was employed as Nicko's CCO/Chief Commercial Officer.

In 2018 (February 20 through March 1), Nicko Tours scheduled a total of 10 roadshows in Germany to promote the company's new "ocean cruising" business. Each of the shows started with a casual get-together and buffet with finger food, followed by the presentation of the vessel and its cruise itineraries. Then travel agents enjoyed full meals and gourmet desserts.

Currently, Nicko's only ocean-going ship is Vasco da Gama.

Itinerary of Mystic Cruises

All the four Mystic Cruises ocean-going ships will operate on global itineraries leaving from various seaports worldwide. The new company will rely mainly on North American passenger sourcing. Fly-cruise deals from the USA will be also available for booking.

The company's fleet of modern riverboats is deployed exclusively in Europe - on Douro River (in Portugal), on Seine-Rhone river (in France), and on the Western-Central European rivers Moselle, Rhine, and the Danube. Boats' homeports (departure ports) include Germany (Passau, Cologne, Berlin, Stuttgart, Stralsund, Saarbrucken, Potsdam), France (Paris, Lyon), Basel-Zurich (Switzerland), Prague (Czech Republic), Amsterdam (Holland).

The company also owns a luxury hotel barge - Spirit of Chartwell - cruising on Douro River since 2012.

Atlas Ocean Voyages/AOV itineraries

AOV-Atlas Ocean Voyages is a subsidiary company and travel brand managed by Mystic Cruises USA (parent Mystic Invest).

AOV's fleet currently consists of the newbuild vessels World Navigator (2021), World Voyager (2021/transferred from Nicko in 2023), World Traveller (2022), World Adventurer (2023), World Seeker (2024).

In 2023, AOV's Epicurean Expeditions introduced the open-air dining concept "Alma Alfresco" on World Navigator and World Traveller. The experience is complimentary and includes a wine-pairing menu with traditional Portuguese dishes prepared from authentic recipes. The food is cooked using artisanal methods (oven-roasted), cookware (clay pots) and locally sourced ingredients (from places like Santa Luzia/Algarve, Mirandela/Norte, Setubal/Lisbon). Among the dishes are Polvo a Lagareiro (octopus, potatoes, olive oil, roasted garlic), Alheira de Mirandela (sausage, potatoes, radish greens), Torta de Azeitao (roll cake with egg custard cream). AOV's Epicurean Expeditions also include wine tasting (of regional wines) and a guest chef (could be from a Michelin-starred restaurant or a local culinary celebrity). The voyages also provide tourists with the opportunity to participate in the culinary competition Yachtsman Cookoff and enjoy the complimentary poolside Josper Grill Dining.

Bookings on AOV's World Voyager cruises (Antarctica 2023-2024 itineraries) were opened on May 16, 2023. For Atlas Ocean Voyages, World Voyager's inaugural season starts on November 8th (2023) and is based on homeporting in Ushuaia Argentina. The voyages visit popular Antarctic destinations like Deception Island, Graham Land/Paradise Harbor, Wiencke Island/Port Lockroy, cruising the Lemaire Channel and the South Shetlands.

AOV World Voyager Antarctica 2023-24 program included 4x 9-day roundtrips from Ushuaia (departures Nov 8, Nov 28, Feb 27, Mar 18) and 6x 11-day roundtrips from Ushuaia (departures Nov 17, Jan 14, Jan 25, Feb 5, Feb 16, Mar 7). With World Voyager, Atlas Ocean introduced the brand's first fly-cruises. The fly-and-cruise deals are inclusive of direct charter flights from Punta Arenas Chile to King George Island Antarctica (Chile's Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva) as well as optional 1-night hotel stays (pre- and post-cruise) on all cruisetours from/to Punta Arenas.

AOV's inaugural voyages (2021)

Bookings for the brand's inauguration year (2021) were opened on January 2, 2020, and the operations were scheduled to start in July (2021) with World Navigator. AOV's inaugural season included 66 different port destinations (the Mediterranean Sea, Black Seas, Holy Land) and a total of ten (7- to 15-night long) itineraries.

AOV's inaugural cruise (11-night itinerary, July 17th) from Valletta Malta visited Piraeus-Athens, Zakynthos Island, Katakolon-Olympia, Elafonisos Island, Chania (Crete), Sitia (Crete), Rhodes Island, Mykonos Island, Siracusa (Sicily), Kusadasi.

Black Sea cruise (7-night itinerary, July 28th) from Piraeus-Athens visited Kusadasi; Nessebar, Bucharest, Odessa (2 overnights). Black Sea cruise (9-night itinerary, August 4th) from Piraeus-Athens visited Novorossiysk, Batumi, Sinop, Amasra, Sochi (overnight), Istanbul (overnight). Both Black Sea voyages were combinable into a 16-night B2B/back-to-back.

Three Holy Land voyages had overnights in Haifa (Tel Aviv) and Ashdod (Jerusalem).

7-night Mediterranean cruise (September 18) from Piraeus-Athens to Civitavecchia-Rome visited Corinth Canal (passage), Itea-Delphi, Katakolon, Taormina Sicily, Agropoli, Agropoli, Amalfi, Ravello, Positano, Naples.

7-night Mediterranean cruise (September 25) from Civitavecchia-Rome to Lisbon visited Livorno, Marseilles, Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga, Gibraltar.

Followed a 17-night Europe to South America Transatlantic crossing (October 4/Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro) with stops in Funchal (Madeira Island) and Mindelo (Sao Vincente Island, Cape Verde) before Brazil (Fernando de Noronha Island, Natal, Recife, Salvador, Buzios). An 8-night itinerary (Rio de Janeiro to Montevideo) visited Buzios, Paraty, Ilhabela, Porto Belo, Imbituba, Punta del Este.

AOV itineraries 2024

The brand's 2024 schedule (summer and fall) includes new itineraries in Europe (Mediterranean, also Holy Land and Egypt), South America. The program groups 41 voyages of which 9 are Extended Journeys visiting a total of 31 countries and featuring 19 overnight port stays.

AOV's Mediterranean 2024 schedule has 13x Western Mediterranean itineraries (all 7-night) leaving from Barcelona, Civitavecchia-Rome, Dubrovnik Croatia, Lisbon, Nice France, Palma de Mallorca, Valletta, Malta, Casablanca Morroco.

Two voyages to Holy Land and Egypt in July 2024 depart from Piraeus-Athens (9-night and 12-night) and visit Haifa plus ports in Greece (Greek islands, Cyprus), Turkey, Egypt. A 9-night Adriatic itinerary in August (Athens to Venice) visits ports in Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia.

Two itineraries in Northern Europe and the UK/British Isles are scheduled for World Navigator in 2024 - one in May and the other in September.

AOV's South America and Amazon River program groups 8 itineraries (7- to 11-night long) visiting the Falklands UK, Chilean Fjords/Patagonia, and the Caribbean (French Guiana, Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines.

AOV's Transatlantic crossings in 2024 are four - 13-night (Rio de Janeiro to the Canaries/Gran Canaria), 12-night (Barbados to Lisbon), 21-night (Malaga to Montevideo), and 13-night (Gran Canaria/Canaries to Rio de Janeiro).

B2B bookings receive a 15% discount (on both voyages) while 20% are offered to bookings that combine 3 or more itineraries.

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