updated 4/3/2008 3:05:22 PM ET 2008-04-03T19:05:22

A cruise ship carrying hundreds of passengers — most of them British — left Portugal's Madeira Islands on Thursday after being impounded for three days, officials said.

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The ship pulled out of Funchal, a port on one of the Atlantic Ocean islands, at about 6:45 p.m. en route to Falmouth, England, Pedro Cartaxo of the Funchal Harbor Master's office said in a telephone interview.

More than 400 tourists and about 220 crew members aboard the MV Van Gogh had been stranded in Funchal, 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southwest of Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, since Tuesday while authorities awaited a local court ruling on a financial dispute involving the vessel.

The court had impounded the ship, which was on the final leg of an around-the-world cruise, while it considered the case.

"The ship left with the authorization of the court," Cartaxo said. He said he did not know details of the court decision.

The Association of British Travel Agents said most of the people on board were retired British tourists.

The Van Gogh is owned by a Dutch company, Club Cruise.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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