Thomson's Cruise To Nowhere

October 26, 2008

What do you do if your short mini-cruise quite literally becomes a cruise to nowhere?

I don't mean the kind where you have a jaunt out to sea without visiting a port. I mean the kind where the ship doesn't leave port at all.

This was the situation this weekend for around 1,200 passengers aboard Thomson Cruises' Thomson Celebration -- and I was among them.

The British ship had been due to embark on a "Taste of Ireland" three day cruise from Liverpool on Thursday night with port calls at Cork and Dublin.

However, due to bad winds and heavy rain that buffeted the rough Irish Sea, it was impossible for the ship to leave. We weren't the only ship affected, either. One cross-sea ferry had to use a tug to get into the docks in Langton and several cross-sea ferry services had been cancelled. Captain Alan Leech announced over the public address system that the first call in Cork would be cancelled.

Passengers of course, were disappointed and many first time cruisers were wondering how long they would remain first time cruisers.

The next morning the winds had calmed and the sun was shining over Liverpool, but again, Captain Leech broke the news that the ship wasn't leaving today. Or even at all in fact.

He said he didn't consider it safe to leave Liverpool, and "with another depression due east of Dublin this evening, it would make it worse. "I have spent 14 years on the Irish Sea and have sailed on ships smaller than this. I have 1,800 (passengers and crew combined) people on my ship and I am not prepared to take you over to Dublin."

Understandably passengers were disappointed, first time cruisers adjusted to the notion that they'd leave this cruise still sea-going virgins, and the reception desk became extremely busy with concerns.

So how did Thomson deal with the situation?

We were told by the cruise director that all activities would continue and were able to stay aboard the ship until Sunday. As such, organized fun included golf putting, dance classes, a quiz show and a film was shown in the cinema -- and all were well attended.

Passengers were offered 80 percent of what they paid toward this cruise on a future cruise with Thomson, regardless of whether they disembarked early or not.

Passengers could spend time in Liverpool with a free shuttle bus from the port.

Still, the atmosphere onboard was a bit tense with a number of passengers wanting a full refund (they would have to contact insurance companies), but the majority of passengers agreed the Captain made the right decision.

One couple from Crewe told me, "We are disappointed, but we know it couldn't be helped and at least there is good food, good entertainment and people were having fun." This seemed to sum up the attitude of the majority -- and although everyone was disappointed that they were not visit Cork or Dublin, the facilities and the attitude of the staff on the ship helped to make a good weekend away.

--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor