(11:30 a.m. EDT) -- Damage is so severe to Avalon Tranquility that it has cancelled the next two cruises. The ship was involved in a collision on the Danube River on Friday.
A statement provided for Cruise Critic by Tranquility's operator, Avalon Waterways, says that passengers booked on the September 11 and September 25 departures are being informed now and offered a compensation package.
The ship, which was hit by a cargo vessel and has a hole in its hull some two feet across, was towed to a shipyard on Sunday where the damage is being assessed. "Since repair work is just beginning, we do not have a completion date," the statement continues.
Although the local authorities in Deggendorf, where the accident happened, will be carrying out an enquiry into whose fault the collision was, Avalon Waterways has been praised for its quick response to the crisis. A special Facebook page has been set up to keep followers informed, on which travel agent Craig Pavlus, who has clients on the stricken ship, commented: "We were kept abreast of the safety of clients, new accommodations and contact numbers should we require additional information. Avalon management deserves a thank you for their quick and professional response."
Immediately after the actual crash, passengers and crew were mustered on the Sky Deck, as Avalon Waterways' procedure dictates, where life jackets were handed out. Passengers, the Avalon statement said, are always given a safety briefing at the start of the cruise, information which is also broadcast on the ship's TV system. This is the case with all river cruise lines we know of, although there is no overall governing body that regulates river cruising. Contrary to the more mainstream cruise industry, which is regulated for safety by national and international organizations, on riverboats, the Avalon statement confirmed, is handled by individual cruise lines.
Guests' luggage was also retrieved and the majority of passengers are continuing their itinerary by coach, with a refund for the bulk of the cruise fare they'd paid and a voucher for a future cruise.
In a statement, Avalon tells Cruise Critic that compensation for those travellers whose cruises are cancelled is as follows:
Rebook a Europe cruise for 2011 by moving the full value of the cancelled cruise to a new cruise, plus a $500 discount per person. This option also includes a $500 voucher for future travel with Avalon Waterways in 2012 or 2013.
Cancel the 2011 booking and rebook in 2012. Once again, with this option, we're providing our travelers a $500 discount for their new booking.
Full cancellation of the cruise, including a full refund. With this option, we are also providing travelers a $500 voucher for future travel with Avalon Waterways.
Cruising on the Danube, one of Europe's busiest waterways for passenger ships and cargo ships, is generally regarded as very safe but accidents in the past have included ships hitting bridges, locks and other vessels. In fact, Avalon Tranquility itself hit a vintage paddle steamer, Schoenbrunn, on the Danube in 2009, causing damage to the older ship.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor