BATON ROUGE, La. -- Mary Rivere, an independent contractor for Travel Planners, last year booked a client on Festival Cruises' European Stars. Then she called First European Cruises, which markets Festival in the U.S., to check on the documents, but got a phone recording instead.

Rivere has since left voice messages, sent e-mails and contacted organizations and other agencies to see if they had any contacts. So far, she said, she hadn't gotten through.

"She had her heart set on it," Rivere said of her client, who booked the trip because it included a stop in Alexandria, Egypt. "It was their anniversary cruise."

Rivere is part of an agent constituency -- how large is difficult to tell -- helping clients left high and dry while Genoa, Italy-based Festival Cruises struggles to reorganize after halting operations in January.

Janet Quatrini at Highland Travel in St. Johnsbury, Vt., told a similar tale. She originally had booked a group of eight with Royal Olympia Cruises, but then switched to Festival after Royal Olympia idled its ships. Now, Quatrini's rebooked them a third time, on Costa Cruises.

"From our standpoint, it's shocking; it's like being hit by lightning twice," she said. "But for clients who take a trip once a year or two, they just can't comprehend."

Phones at the New York office last week continued to go unanswered. Several travel agents said they had been unaware of the depth of the line's difficulties and were upset that representatives had not reached out to inform or update them.

"That there's no one you can even reach makes me think they're not even trying," said Debbie Garcia, an agent with King Travel in Atlanta who had clients booked on a June sailing of Festival's Vision. Quatrini said she had to play "private detective" to discover that the Vision was idled in Barbados.

Festival, meanwhile, provided e-mail addresses for agents to contact its Italian headquarters: [email protected]; [email protected] or [email protected].

A spokeswoman for the line said Festival was continuing to challenge the auction of one of its ships, the European Vision, which was awarded by a Barbados judge to a company affiliated with another European line, MSC Cruises.

One of its supporting banks filed an appeal in Genoa to stop the sale, she said.

It was understood that another ship, the Mistral, is to be auctioned in Marseille, France, on May 13, although the spokeswoman said that she had not seen official confirmation."

To contact reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].

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