Travelscope, the Gloucester-based land and cruise operator, has suddenly ceased operations and has cancelled trips. In a statement on its Web site, it says that the "company was placed into administration on 21 December 2007" and that it will neither accept any new bookings nor operate trips for travelers who’ve paid already for future ones.
For its ocean cruises, Travelscope, whose ship-based trips have been marketed as value-for-money voyages to Scandinavia, South America, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, among others, charters just one ship: the MS Van Gogh. The 15,420-ton, 506-passenger ship is owned by a Dutch firm; it was built in 1975.
That cruise will continue until its scheduled return to Falmouth on January 4, 2008 because it is financially covered under the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), of which it’s a member.
Travelscope's land trips that are currently underway will also continue as planned and those travelers are protected as well.
In addition to the Van Gogh, the company's cruise arm also operated ten river ships though river cruise season is, for now, on hiatus.
The company has been in financial distress for some time, according to several sources, and had been trying to arrange additional financing. Reportedly, its directors yesterday were finally forced to place Travelscope into administration. The move impacts more than 250 employees of the company, who will lose their jobs, and an estimated 40,000 people who had planned trips, between now and the end of 2008, with the company, whether by land or sea.
For those who have booked future trips -- including, unfortunately, those timed around the Christmas holiday season -- Travelscope has provided clear and concise instructions:
For those customers travelling by air, we can advise that the Company was bonded under the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) system managed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). If you had a booking, you will be able to claim a refund of the money you paid subject to the completion of a claim form to the satisfaction of the CAA. For further information, please refer to www.caa.co.uk
For those customers travelling by means other than air - we can advise that the Company was bonded under the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). If you had a booking, you will be able to claim a refund of the money you paid subject to the completion of a claim form to the satisfaction of ABTA. For further information, please refer to www.abta.com/newsandinfo.shtml
The CAA and ABTA have now been provided with all passengers names and addresses and booking details. They will send out claim forms during the very near future. The claim forms cannot be issued by the Company or the Administrators.
There have been suggestions by some passengers that they would prefer to contact their credit card issuer as regards repayment. Please note that this is neither necessary nor appropriate in these circumstances. The correct course of action will be to complete and submit a claim form to either the CAA or ABTA.
Those who wish to contact a staffer at Travelscope can, according to the Web site, can call 0844 412 9644 or send an email to email@example.com. "One of the Administrators team will endeavour to deal with your enquiry as soon as practicable. However, we do ask that you bear with the Administrators as they presently have a high volume of queries to deal with at the moment."
Do beware that though the company is no longer selling cruises, some travel agency Web sites, such as cruisedirect.co.uk, still have Travelscope voyages listed as for sale.
Disappointing though the turn of events is – for passengers, travelers and employees alike – the company’s straightforward efforts to help in this dark area are consistent with its reputation for fine customer service and quite different from the approach taken by another cruise line that recently failed. The American-based and family owned Windjammer Cruises, which operated distinctly original voyages on sailing ships, shut down this fall without a word to its crew and passengers – and even then continued, shockingly, to try to sell cruises.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief