The co-owner of a Russian cruise ship adrift in the North Atlantic said his attempt to salvage the derelict vessel has ruined him as the federal Opposition questioned why it was ever allowed to be towed in the dead of winter.

NDP transport critic Olivia Chow said that Transport Canada never should have permitted the Lyubov Orlova to be towed out of port in St. John's, N.L.

"Just because the ship is now drifting in international waters, it's still the Canadian government that gave it the authority to tow the ship," Chow said in an interview.

The empty cruise ship was being pulled to the Dominican Republic for scrap when its tow line snapped in rough seas on Jan. 24.

Efforts to reattach the cable failed, and Transport Canada ordered the tugboat Charlene Hunt back to port a few days later.

An offshore supply ship from Husky Energy was sent to tow the Lyubov Orlova away from oil platforms last week before a vessel chartered by Transport Canada took over.

However, the department said the towing operating was hampered by poor weather and the vessel was allowed to drift into international waters.

"Transport Canada, in consultation with its partners, decided not to pursue the drifting vessel as there are no people aboard the ship and there was a serious concern for the safety of Canadian sailors involved in the salvage operation," spokeswoman Celine Gaudet wrote in an email.

She said the Canadian Coast Guard installed a tracking device on the cruise ship, and government surveillance flights would also monitor its location.

Transport Canada has said the ship is not expected to re-enter Canadian waters and the owners of the ship remain responsible for its movements.

Reza Shoeybi said he and his uncle Saeed Shoaibi, both of Toronto, became co-owners of the Lyubov Orlova after Hussein Humayuni, a family friend and Iranian scrap merchant, bought the ship for $275,000 in a Federal Court process last year in Montreal.

Shoeybi said Humayuni struggled with the payments and that the other two men invested a total of more than $400,000 getting the vessel ready to be towed to the Dominican Republic for scrap, and they expected to make between $700,000 and $800,000 depending on metals markets.

It wasn't ideal to set out in mid-winter but Shoeybi, 32, said he felt pressured to get the vessel out of the harbour as soon as possible or risk having it seized by the courts.

"It has ruined me," Shoeybi said Tuesday while aboard the Charlene Hunt, which remains docked in St. John's harbour.

"I don't have anything else. I've lost 12 years of my savings."

The Lyubov Orlova was insured for US$850,000 but only for a total loss while under tow, he added.

Shoeybi said he has tried to partner with another tow company but the vessel is now about 560 kilometres east of St. John's, floating northeast at almost four kilometres an hour, he said.

"Considering where the location is and the winds ... she's not going to be hitting anything, unless a miracle happens, for another two months.

"She's in the open water heading ... between Iceland and Ireland. She might even end up in Russia. You never know."

Chow said the federal Conservatives have a history of washing its hands of orphaned vessels, citing the case of the MV Miner off Nova Scotia.

The bulk carrier ran aground on Scaterie Island off Cape Breton in September 2011 while being towed to a scrapyard in Turkey. Neither the federal nor provincial governments have been willing to take responsibility for the wreck.

"We see a pattern of shirking responsibility," said Chow. "And when accidents happen, the Conservative government walks away."

Transport Minister Denis Lebel was not available for comment.

The Transportation Safety Board sent two investigators to St. John's last week, but has not yet committed to a formal investigation into how the vessel broke free from the American tug.

Kevin Hunt of Hunt Tugs and Barges Inc. in Rhode Island said his company is the owner of the Charlene Hunt. But he said the company entered into a charter agreement with the owners of the Lyubov Orlova last October to sell the tug and his company wasn't involved with any efforts to tow the cruise ship to the Dominican Republic.

"I didn't know anything about any of this," he said. "I heard something, but I didn't know the name of the ship, I didn't know the plans."

Hunt said the decision to pull a cruise ship in the North Atlantic in January wasn't "too bright."

"I think if they had nice weather, the right tow gear, I think they would have made it," he said.

Gaudet said in her email that it's up to a vessel's flag state to issue a safety certificate.

However, she said the Charlene Hunt was inspected at the port in Halifax last November as per the department's Port State Control program. Another inspection is due in September.

The Lyubov Orlova was a popular Arctic cruise ship before Canadian authorities seized it in St. John's in September 2010 as part of a lawsuit by Cruise North Expeditions against its Russian owners. The company was trying to recoup cash for the cost of a trip it cancelled due to technical problems.

The ship sat in the harbour for more than two years before being bought. It was recently refitted to hold 110 passengers, down from 237, Shoeybi said.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the tow line snapped Jan. 23.

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  • ARETHUSA

    <strong>First Place: Small Cruise Ships</strong> <em>Overall Rating: 97.1</em> Built in 2007, the 50-passenger Arethusa, owned and operated by Grand Circle Cruise Line, brings their popular river cruise model to the Mediterranean. Like GC's river trips, much of what makes the Arethusa experience special is the ship's two English-speaking Program Directors—experts in regional history, culture, and art—each of whom leads a group of no more than 25 travelers for the duration of the cruise. Despite its size, the Arethusa offers most of the amenities you'd expect: a topside Sun Deck, a lounge and bar area, and a dining room with panoramic ocean views. The 26 cabins range from 150 to 170 square feet and all have flat-screen TVs, AC, and private bathrooms. Upper deck cabins have floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and private balconies. Design-wise, the lack of an elevator is the only conspicuous omission, and may pose a problem for those with mobility issues, though the Arethusa has just three decks. Featured itineraries include two-week tours of the Greek Isles (plus Istanbul) and "Hidden Gems" of the Dalmatian coast. Itineraries/Schedule: 100 Shore Excursions: 100 Crew/Service: 100 Cabins: 88.0 Food/Dining: 100 Activites/Facilities: 95.5 Design/Layout: 96.0 Passengers: 50 <strong><a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/01/top-rated-cruise-ships-photo-tours?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=2" target="_hplink">See more photos of the Arethusa</a></strong> <em>Photographs courtesy of the cruise ship lines </em>

  • NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER

    <strong>Second Place: Small Cruise Ships</strong> <em>Overall Rating: 94.9</em> Lindblad Expeditions launched this ship, a joint venture with the National Geographic Society, in 2008. The focus is squarely on nature and education, and the ship sails with a dozen experts (historians and naturalists, as well as photographers affiliated with the Society) and state-of-the art expedition technology (including undersea cameras, video-microscopes and a crow's nest camera). Itineraries are in-depth and often long, including 14- and 24-night Antarctica tours and 18-day routes around Norwegian fjords. Itineraries/Schedule: 94.9 Shore Excursions: 97.4 Crew/Service: 100 Cabins: 84.6 Food/Dining: 92.3 Activites/Facilities: 100 Design/Layout: 94.9 Passengers: 148 <strong><a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/01/top-rated-cruise-ships-photo-tours?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=6" target="_hplink">See more photos of the National Geographic Explorer</a></strong> <em>Photographs courtesy of the cruise ship lines </em>

  • NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ENDEAVOUR

    <strong>Third place: Small cruise ships</strong> <em>Overall Rating: 94.4</em> The forerunner of Lindblad Expeditions first led tours of the Galápagos in 1967, and the company acquired the Endeavour in 1996 (it was originally used as a North Sea fishing trawler), so both the line and the ship are old hands at sailing the islands that Darwin made famous. The 96-passenger ship has 10- and 16-day-long itineraries departing from Guayaquil, Ecuador. The Endeavour is a small expedition ship, and passengers shouldn't expect luxury-liner amenities, but all cabins have small writing desks and views of the water; meals are single-seating at unassigned tables. One of the ship's unusual features is a floating massage platform, for treatments made complete by the gentle rocking motion of the sea. Itineraries/Schedule: 100 Shore Excursions: 100 Crew/Service: 100 Cabins: 85.7 Food/Dining: 92.9 Activites/Facilities: 96.4 Design/Layout: 85.2 Passengers: 96 <strong><a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/01/top-rated-cruise-ships-photo-tours?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=8" target="_hplink">See more photos of the National Geographic Endeavour</a></strong> <em>Photographs courtesy of the cruise ship lines </em>

  • CRYSTAL SYMPHONY

    <strong>First Place: Medium Cruise Ships</strong> <em>Overall Rating: 94.5</em> Along with the slightly larger Serenity, the service and amenities aboard the 461-cabin Crystal Symphony have sufficiently impressed Condé Nast Traveler readers that they have voted Crystal the world's best large-ship cruise line in a record 17 Readers' Choice surveys. A multimillion-dollar renovation completed in 2012 gave the Symphony a more contemporary feel. The Symphony and the Serenity have the same lineup of dining venues, including Silk Road (under the direction of celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa) and restaurateur Piero Selvaggio's Valentino at Prego. The Symphony will be spending summer 2013 in Europe; in fall foliage season, it can often be found off the New England and eastern Canadian coasts. Itineraries are now all-inclusive, with complimentary wine and spirits and prepaid gratuities. Itineraries/Schedule: 94.7 Shore Excursions: 90.2 Crew/Service: 98.2 Cabins: 91.5 Food/Dining: 95.9 Activites/Facilities: 94.1 Design/Layout: 96.5 Passengers: 922 <strong><a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/01/top-rated-cruise-ships-photo-tours?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=22" target="_hplink">See more photos of the Crystal Symphony</a></strong> <em>Photographs courtesy of the cruise ship lines </em>

  • CRYSTAL SERENITY

    <strong>Second Place: Medium Cruise Ships</strong> <em>Overall Rating: 94.0</em> The 535-cabin Crystal Serenity underwent an extensive renovation in May 2011, with new bedding and updated decor (tufted headboards and state-of-the-art lighting), which brought it up to par with the Symphony, its slightly smaller sister ship. Both ships have Creative Learning Institutes, with course offerings from language classes to digital filmmaking workshops, which help earn the line some of the industry's highest scores for activities among Condé Nast Traveler readers. New in 2011 on both ships is "Perfect Choice Dining," which provides passengers with flexible dining times in the main restaurant, and the "You Care, We Care" program, in which Crystal covers the expenses of their new voluntourism-focused shore excursions. In addition to world cruises, the Serenity can often be found in the Baltic early in the summer, the Mediterranean in late summer and fall, and the Caribbean and South America in winter. Itineraries are now all-inclusive, with complimentary wine and spirits and prepaid gratuities. Itineraries/Schedule: 94.3 Shore Excursions: 86.7 Crew/Service: 97.1 Cabins: 91.8 Food/Dining: 97.1 Activites/Facilities: 94.2 Design/Layout: 96.4 Passengers: 1,070 <strong><a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/01/top-rated-cruise-ships-photo-tours?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=27" target="_hplink">See more photos of the Crystal Serenity</a></strong> <em>Photographs courtesy of the cruise ship lines </em>

  • SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER

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    <strong>Second Place: Large Cruise Ships</strong> <em>Overall Rating: 89.6</em> One of the Disney Cruise Line's first two ships, the Disney Wonder debuted in 1999, a year after her sister ship, the Magic. As with the Magic, the Wonder celebrates Disney characters and the artists who created them. The ship's godmother was Tinkerbell, while all Disney ships include Animator's Palate restaurants, whose interiors are decorated with sketches of characters and feature columns and walls at impossible fun-house angles. A show starring costumed cast members is the highlight of dinner. (Passengers who want a break from all the family fun can head to the adults-only Palo for Italian.) In 2011, the Wonder began offering Alaska itineraries in the summer; she sails in the Bahamas and along the Mexican Riviera in the fall and winter. Itineraries/Schedule: 87.6 Shore Excursions: 81.0 Crew/Service: 96.3 Cabins: 90.5 Food/Dining: 84.3 Activites/Facilities: 93.8 Design/Layout: 92.6 Passengers: 2,700 <strong><a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/01/top-rated-cruise-ships-photo-tours?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=55" target="_hplink">See more photos of the Disney Wonder</a></strong> <em>Photographs courtesy of the cruise ship lines </em>

  • DISNEY DREAM

    <strong>Third Place: Large Cruise Ships</strong> <em>Overall Rating: 89.5</em> Disney continues to set the bar high with the Disney Dream, which mixes a sense of fantasy with technology to create innovative new features. For example, the first aquatic roller coaster at sea, the AquaDuck, is a serious upgrade for kids used to top-deck water slides. Interior cabins have been fit with "magical" portholes, which show live feeds, and hallways are lined with "enchanted" paintings, which are LCD screens showing videos of animated characters. There's plenty for parents, too, from an adults-only pool to Remy, a Ratatouille-themed French restaurant. Itineraries/Schedule: 80.1 Shore Excursions: 80.1 Crew/Service: 95.7 Cabins: 95.7 Food/Dining: 87.2 Activites/Facilities: 95.2 Design/Layout: 90.9 Passengers: 4,000 <strong><a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/01/top-rated-cruise-ships-photo-tours?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=60" target="_hplink">See more photos of the Disney Dream</a></strong> <em>Photographs courtesy of the cruise ship lines </em>

  • PROVENCE

    <strong>First Place: River-Cruise Ships</strong> <em>Overall Rating: 98.1</em> Launched in 2000, the Provence is small, long, and low, with only three decks, like its sister ship, the Chardonnay, with which it also shares an itinerary. As its name implies, the Provence operates in France, primarily on the Rhône River through the wine-growing region of Burgundy, toward its eponymous destination. The ship's roof is a sundeck with tables and chairs under a striped awning, chaises under the open sky, as well as whirlpools. With 14 crew members to serve only 27 cabins, it's no wonder Condé Nast Traveler readers give the ship an outstanding score for service. Itineraries/Schedule: 100 Shore Excursions: 100 Crew/Service: 100 Cabins: 100 Food/Dining: 95.7 Activites/Facilities: 91.3 Design/Layout: 100 Passengers: 46 <strong><a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/01/top-rated-cruise-ships-photo-tours?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=74" target="_hplink">See more photos of the Provence</a></strong> <em>Photographs courtesy of the cruise ship lines </em>

  • RIVER ALLEGRO

    <strong>Second Place: River-Cruise Ships</strong> <em>Overall Rating: 97.7</em> Acquired, renovated, and relaunched in 2011, the 22 year-old River Allegro (formerly Peter Deilmann Cruises' M/S Dresden) is technically Grand Circle's newest ship, and much effort's been put into buffing it up and making it worthy of the fleet of which it's now a member. The number of berths has been reduced by nearly 20, the bar and lounge expanded accordingly, and the dining room has been extensively redecorated. These efforts weren't lost on Condé Nast Traveler readers, who rated the Allegro one of 2013's top river ships. The Allegro's open Sun Deck offers panoramic views of the River Elbe and environs on its 12- and 13-day trips from Berlin to Prague. A maximum capacity of 90 passengers allows each of the two resident Program Directors—experts in regional history, arts and culture—to lead a small group of travelers, offering them a more focused, personalized experience than that of larger operations. Itineraries/Schedule: 98.0 Shore Excursions: 98.0 Crew/Service: 98.0 Cabins: 98.0 Food/Dining: 98.0 Activites/Facilities: 95.8 Design/Layout: 98.0 Passengers: 90 <strong><a href="http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/01/top-rated-cruise-ships-photo-tours?mbid=synd_huffpo#slide=78" target="_hplink">See more photos of the River Allegro</a></strong> <em>Photographs courtesy of the cruise ship lines </em>

  • RIVER ADAGIO

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