(Update: 11:45 a.m. GMT) -- Arena Travel has announced it has acquired The River Cruise Line and Diamond Rail brands from Diamond Shortbreak Holidays Ltd., following confirmation from ABTA that the holiday specialists ceased trading on March 15.
Due to financial difficulties, Diamond Shortbreak Holidays Ltd. made the decision to cease trading, which forced the cancellation of all future River Cruise Line voyages.
ABTA estimates that Diamond Shortbreak Holidays Ltd had almost 7,000 forward bookings -- comprising approximately 16,000 passengers -- that are protected. Arena Travel has now revealed it aims to honour as many of those bookings as possible.
In a statement, Arena Travel's managing director, Steve Goodenough said: "The acquisition was supported by the cruise lines who operate the popular Lady Anne and Serenity ships that are exclusive to The River Cruise Line. Both will be working closely with Arena with the aim of operating the vast majority of planned sailings for 2017. Our aim is to provide the same rail or river cruise holiday on the same date and at the same price to as many of the 5,000 who have booked a holiday for the season ahead as possible. Thanks to the financial protection in place, customers will be covered for any loss of money."
Consumers affected are advised to contact ABTA if their holiday booking excludes flights or the CAA if it includes flights. If a booking was made through a travel agent, consumers are advised to contact their agent who will be able to advise further.
Goodenough added: "We’d like to reassure agents and the loyal customers of The River Cruise Line and Diamond Rail Holidays that their bookings will be safe and that we will be working hard to minimise disruption through this period of transition. We appreciate that this can be a worrying time, but our intention is to retain and build The River Cruise Line and Diamond Rail brands, and to ensure that their portfolio of river cruises and escorted rail tours continues to operate to the usual high standard."
The River Cruise Line operates Lady Anne -- which was originally built as a barge in 1903 before being converted into a 100-passenger vessel in 1963 -- and the 184-passenger Serenity -- a far more recent ship, built in 2006.
The River Cruise Line's two ships cater to the British cruise market -- specifically older, budget-conscious travellers who enjoy coach tours across Europe.
This follows the news earlier this year that All Leisure Group -- parent company of British cruise lines Swan Hellenic and Voyages of Discovery -- also ceased trading due to financial difficulties. The company's dissolution meant some 13,000 advance bookings were cancelled and the majority of crew working on the two ships lost their jobs.
--By Kerry Spencer, Editor, U.K.