The fledgling line was mum on the details of what caused the setbacks, as well as what aspects of its first ship remain unfinished. Spokesman Tim Beebe did tell us on March 18 that the ship is fully operational -- i.e. floats and can move -- but nowhere near ready to accommodate guests. (Oddly enough, Pearl Seas released a statement on March 19 saying the ship has "launched," with no reference to the five-month shipyard delay; Pearl Seas did not immediately respond to our request for clarification.)
What we do know is that passengers booked on one of the Canada sailings are being given the option of rebooking a comparable cruise for 2009 or receiving a full refund. Pearl Seas is working with those who've already booked on an individual basis. At this time, the ship-less line, part of the American Cruise Line family, isn't offering onboard credit.
At this point, Pearl Seas' Web site lists its first available sailing as slated for November 11; it'll be a Caribbean cruise between West Palm Beach and St. Martin (the latter port will be its homeport for the rest of the season). But there's still confusion. The exact date of the new inaugural cruise is still undetermined, according Beebe. Depending on how construction proceeds, there is a possibility that cruises will be offered in October.
When the first ship finally does debut, it will be an all-balcony vessel with an emphasis on country club casual luxury. Onboard entertainment will be driven by specialists called "enlighteners" -- historians, naturalists -- who will provide a cultural backdrop to the destinations visited. Following the new maiden season in the Caribbean, which focuses on exotic Southern Caribbean ports like Iles des Saintes, St. Kitts and other, the ship will head to Canadian waters in spring 2009 for cruises out of Quebec, Halifax and St. John's.
We'll keep you posted.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor