The charter is now official, however, and Celebrity has announced that passengers already booked on the sailing, including a Cruise Critic member group, will have several options.
First off, Celebrity is giving booked passengers (who've made deposits) the chance to switch to another Celebrity Solstice sailing departing between February 1 and March 29, 2009, with like category staterooms at the lowest available rate. All sailings are seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruises, roundtrip Ft. Lauderdale. The ability to swap cruises is, however, subject to availability.
For the inconvenience, passengers who rebook on another sailing will receive $200 per stateroom onboard credit for inside, oceanview and balcony cabins; and $400 per stateroom credit for suites.
Note: Third and fourth passengers in a stateroom are not eligible for onboard credits.
If you can't manage to rearrange your travel plans (families on spring break cruises?) Celebrity will issue a full refund for amount paid.
Celebrity's Web site still lists the old cruise, departing March 8 with the original Eastern Caribbean itinerary, but the dates and pricing section shows all cabin categories as sold out. Departures leaving March 1 and March 15, however, are still available in every category.
Though unfortunate, chartering ships -- after cruise lines have already opened up bookings to the public -- is somewhat common practice, and something the lines mention may happen in the fine print. Both Holland America, with an October 18 sailing aboard the upcoming Eurodam, and Royal Caribbean, who chartered Freedom of the Seas for a Nickelodeon cruise this summer, have had to inform guests that they had been booted from said sailings. Needless to say, members on our message boards were not pleased.
Stay tuned for an upcoming feature on cruise ship charters.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor