The recently relaunched Orient Lines has delayed its inaugural season, scheduled for April 2009, citing the current economic climate.

Orient Lines CEO Wayne Heller said all bookings would be promptly refunded and that the company would assist customers with making arrangements for other cruises.

"Even though the launch of Orient Lines is delayed, we are exploring possible options to relaunch our cruise program at a more favorable time in the near future," Heller said in a statement.

Heller, founder of the Cruises Only travel agency, purchased the Orient Lines name from Star Cruises in July. In August, he revealed that the line would begin operations with the 30-year-old, 25,000-ton Maxim Gorkiy, which he renamed the Marco Polo II.

Orient sales reps had told travel agents on Monday that the line was canceling its 2009 Europe season. The line appeared to be on shaky ground over the last month after its executive vice president, Bruce Nierenberg, resigned after being placed on furlough along with 10 other full-time employees. Shortly after, most of Orient’s sales force was let go. 

Shortly before his resignation, Nierenberg said, "We're certainly not full. .. It's been difficult for people to make commitments on vacations next year."

The Maxim Gorkiy is currently under charter with German operator Phoenix Reisen. Orient had planned to extensively renovate the ship in December in preparation for an April 15 inaugural cruise from Barcelona.

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