(Saturday, 8:15 a.m. EDT) -- As Europe struggles to cope with the third day of travel chaos caused by a massive ash cloud that has grounded flights, cruise lines are putting contingency plans into place. Here's an update of what we've learned:
Passengers due to fly from the U.K. to Barbados Saturday to join Princess Cruises' Sea Princess may have the option to join the sailing late, according to a statement on the line's Web site. The ship will depart Barbados today as planned, and if conditions allow for it, Princess will arrange to fly late passengers to meet the ship in Aruba on the 22nd. However, those individuals will miss five nights of the 14-night cruise; credit will be offered to them for the missed days.
Cunard is unaffected as both ships are mid-cruise.
P&O Cruises is unaffected as no fly-cruises are operating, although passengers travelling to Southampton from around the U.K. will need to use road or rail rather than domestic flights to reach Southampton for this weekend's departures on Artemis, Oceana and Oriana.
Ocean Village has been one of the worst affected. The April 15 'Groves and Gondolas' cruise from Heraklion has been cancelled. Passengers who had booked a 14-night cruise are being offered a seven-night cruise departing next Thursday with the appropriate refund, or a full refund. Those that had made it out to Crete will be taken to hotels while Ocean Village works with airlines to organise onward flights when the airspace reopens.
A special hotline has been set up for passengers sailing on any of the above cruise lines who are affected by the current travel disruption: 0845 351 0350.
Fred. Olsen tells us that Braemar departed late Friday, as planned, after all passengers were able to arrive at the ship.
Thomson Cruises issued a statement saying that passengers who booked flights through the cruise line and who are unable to reach their ships can either be rebooked on an alternate sailing for no additional charge or receive a full refund without penalty if no alternate sailing can be found.
Passengers planning to depart on Thomson Spirit on Wednesday or Thomson Celebration or Thomson Dream on Thursday are advised to check Thomson's Web site prior to traveling to the airport.
Those on sailings that may be affected can call Thomson's 24/7 airline hotline at 02476 282 501 for updates. A customer service line, which can be accessed at 0800 009 3833, has also been set up to handle rebookings.
A statement from Holland America Line says a Eurodam sailing, scheduled to depart Monday, will sail a revised itinerary in the Mediterranean.
The ship will stay in Rome (Civitavecchia) Monday night and will, instead, depart on Tuesday, April 20. Additionally, a call at Dubrovnik, Croatia, will take place on Thursday, April 22 -- one day later than originally scheduled; the April 22 port call to Corfu, Greece, is canceled.
For additional information, passengers can call 1-800-577-1728.
A spokeswoman for Crystal Cruises tells us Crystal Serenity will turn around on Saturday in Civitavecchia, for Rome, and that air-sea guests routed through London are protected on other flights in the event that the airport does not reopen.
Viking River Cruises tells us its representatives have been in touch with those scheduled to sail Saturday and Sunday. They are continuing to monitor the situation and will have customer service representatives available this weekend. If conditions do not improve by early Saturday, passengers will be advised against travel and will either be rebooked or will receive credit for a future sailing.
Connections Elegant World Cruises, which sells Uniworld river sailings in the U.K., tells us that two itineraries have been affected -- a 15-day "Eastern European Explorer" voyage and an 11-day "Lisbon and the Beautiful Douro" voyage. The company has been in touch with all affected passengers and is currently assisting them in making other arrangements.
However, a Uniworld spokesperson says the line's ships are still operating as normal. The line is currently working to book alternate sailings for those who missed their ships due to the flight situation.
Royal Caribbean and NCL all have statements on their Web sites about the disruption and what they are offering passengers.
April is also the beginning of Europe's river cruise season but at the moment, it's a case of "wait and see." We're waiting for updates from AMAWATERWAYS and Uniworld. A spokeswoman for Avalon told us this Friday: "The one departure we have this week is the Avalon Tulip Time due to depart Amsterdam on Sunday on board the Avalon Imagery. I'm told that it will be operating but we are, of course, waiting for an update from the airlines following advice from the Met Office and NATS when flights are likely to resume.
"In the event that our passengers won't be able to travel we will of course be offering to rebook them on an alternative departure or of course offering a full refund."
We'll keep you posted as more cruise lines announce their contingency plans -- and, of course, when the next NATS announcement is made at 4 a.m. EDT (9 a.m. BST) Monday.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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