(2:50 p.m. EST) -- Last night, we reported that plans to base NCL's Norwegian Star at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver as a floating hotel were up in the air. Today, we've learned from both Norwegian Cruise Line and Newwest Special Projects, the travel company that chartered the ship, that plans have indeed been scrapped. A statement from Newwest cites "slower than expected sales, along with expenses associated with the charter that were higher than anticipated" as reasons for canceling three segments that were part of the charter.
But wait a minute: Although only about 1,300 passengers were booked for the first segment -- a four-night sailing from Los Angeles to Vancouver -- about 1,600 had reserved rooms during the games, at which time the ship was to be docked at the Kinder Morgan industrial dock in North Vancouver. That means roughly 800 of the ship's 1,100 available rooms were booked for the second segment (assuming double occupancy). Plus, the third segment -- a four-night, post-Olympics sailing from Vancouver to Los Angeles -- was reportedly sold out.
Calls and e-mails to Newwest for comment have not yet been returned. NCL declined to comment on whether Newwest's reasons for canceling are accurate and whether Newwest will receive a refund of the money it paid to lease the ship from NCL -- a sum that supposedly totaled more than $10 million.
Norwegian Cruise Line and Newwest have instructed passengers booked on any of the three segments to call Newwest at (877) 254-2010 or (780) 450-1555 to inquire about refunds, which will be given in full -- but there was no answer at either number when we called. Furthermore, we were told it wasn't possible to leave a message, due to full voicemail boxes.
Meanwhile, a group of 11 sick children and their families, who were booked to stay onboard during the games through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, are searching for other accommodations. But, that could prove to be difficult, since very few area lodgings have openings, and the ones that do have significantly increased prices. As we reported yesterday, the Days Inn Vancouver was charging more than $800 a night for a Queen Suite -- the only type of room still available at that location.
However, Jennifer Tait, a volunteer with the British Columbia and Yukon chapter of Make-A-Wish, tells us that several hotels have come forward to offer rooms, though nothing has been solidified yet. According to NCL spokeswoman Courtney Recht, NCL is also currently trying to assist the foundation but did not say how, specifically, and several local residents have even offered to host families at their homes -- an option which, unfortunately, is not feasible, due to insurance legalities.
Recht says the line will resume its regular sailings, as scheduled, on March 6 with a seven-night Mexico cruise from Los Angeles. Options for the ship for the month of February are currently being considered, but no decisions have yet been made. Should the line add a Vancouver-based cruise? It could be a unique and interesting itinerary -- and, we'd bet, a great deal since it's not exactly cruise season in the region! We'll keep you updated.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor