Passengers with reservations on Celebrity Millennium's Australia and New Zealand cruises between October 9, 2009, and March 22, 2010, have several options to rebook or cancel. You can rebook on Celebrity's final season of Down Under cruises between October 17, 2008, and April 12, 2009, at the current fares (subject to availability) and receive a $600 per stateroom or $800 per suite onboard credit. Or, you can rebook on Millennium's new Panama Canal or Southern Caribbean cruises between October 10, 2009, and April 16, 2010, and receive a $200 per stateroom or $400 per suite onboard credit. Or, you can cancel your cruise. Any reservations not moved or canceled by October 3, 2008, will automatically be canceled.
Celebrity will contact all passengers and travel agents with affected bookings. In addition, a special phone number has been established to handle questions from North America customers -- please call 888-281-9343.
U.K. passengers should contact the line at www.celebritycruises.co.uk or call 0845 456 0523.
While Celebrity does not give a reason for pulling out of this market, one travel agent told us that the market for cruising around Australia and New Zealand is over-saturated. Last year, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and a second Princess ship began Australia and New Zealand sailings, when previously only Holland America and Princess had some seasonal itineraries there. With the high cost of fuel and the itinerary itself, as well as intense competition for passengers, this agent speculates that "it was likely neither cost effective nor advantageous for [parent company] Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to have two competing brands in the same exotic destination."
Challenging for Celebrity as well is that the traditional itinerary there is open jaw -- from Sydney to Auckland or vice versa -- which means airfares, pricey to begin with, were even more expensive than would be on a roundtrip Sydney cruise. Royal Caribbean's offerings there focused on multiple roundtrip Sydney itineraries (including Great Barrier Reef, South Pacific, New Zealand and round-Australia itineraries).
Celebrity only began sailing Down Under in December 2007, so its foray into Australia and New Zealand cruising has been rather short-lived. Lines still serving the region include Holland America Line, Britain's P&O Cruises, Princess, Oceania, Royal Caribbean (Celebrity's sister line), and P&O Cruises Australia -- so interested travelers still have plenty of options to explore Australia and New Zealand by cruise ship.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor