Andrew Osborn

 

 

Chief Russia Correspondent

 

Deputy Bureau Chief Russia/CIS

 

Reuters

 

 

Atlantis remains a lost paradise for cruising swingers

The Guardian, 9th July 2002 13:42

by Andrew Osborn

It was billed as "the last word in adult holidays" and "lifestyle couples" from Brussels to Birmingham signed up in their hundreds to exchange partners on the high seas.

For just over £1,000, "open-minded couples" were told, they could enjoy a week's holiday in the MS Atlantis: a luxury cruise ship converted "for the exclusive fun of swingers" which would carry them all over the Mediterranean.

There was, it emerged yesterday, a fly in the ointment: the ship turned out to be as elusive as the underwater city from which it took its name, and the swingers have seen their hope of seagoing adult fun sink without trace.

Many are out of pocket and the official agents for the venture - based in Belgium - say they have been swindled out of thousands of pounds. They confirmed yesterday that they had lodged a complaint with the Belgian police, who have begun to investigate.

It was on May 9 that Europe's famously discreet swinging community first knew there was something wrong. A hundred couples converged on the French port of Marseille for the maiden voyage, looking forward to the "sun, sea, sex and fun" promised by the organisers.

They waited patiently on the dockside for the entire day, but the twin-funnelled white ship they had seen in the promotional material failed to appear.

They were told is was stuck in Athens, and that was the nearest they came to it.

Ellen, a 43-year-old nurse from Belgium, was one of many disappointed swingers.

"I just can't accept I've been swindled," she told the daily De Morgen. "I booked the trip in the sex club where I have been a member for several years. I really thought I'd get value for money."

Yesterday holidays in the Atlantis were still being advertised on the internet, including the London-based site Hedonism, which calls itself "the UK's number one swing scene and fetish club".

A picture of the smiling crew and the holiday's hosts - an amorous couple called Gabor and Dolphin - appears along with the legend "reputation and prestige is our motto".

It promises "a ship made from all of your fantasies" with nine "fantasy" decks, 270 "dream cabins" and a "mirage deck", live sex shows, erotic theatres and cinemas, a swimming pool and a casino, and "everything is possible all day every day all night long".