Volcanic Ash Update: Cruise Impact

April 16, 2010
Volcanic ash

(1:20 a.m. EDT) -- At this point, Brits heading to cruises departing from U.K. ports will not be impacted. However, anyone planning to travel to or from a cruise via a U.K. airport will need to contact their cruise line (if they they booked their flight with their cruise) or the airline (if they booked their flight independently).

Here are the cruise lines that have made specific recommendations to passengers regarding this situation:

A spokesperson for Holland America Line tells us only a handful of guests are impacted. The line has made arrangements (rerouted flights) for approximately 20 air-sea guests; those who booked their own flights have been advised to keep in contact with the line, which will hold ships if possible.

Fred. Olsen tells us that it has passengers bound for Barbados from Manchester to board Braemar, which is due to depart Friday. At this point, the cruise line has advised passengers to return home; if this is not possible, they will be put up in a hotel. Fred. Olsen will issue a further announcement tomorrow morning.

Thomson Cruises has told Cruise Critic that Thomson Celebration was scheduled to begin a Red Sea itinerary in Sharm el Sheikh Thursday, but will remain in port for a further 24 hours so that passengers can hopefully join the ship on Friday. In a statement, the line says: "A number of Thomson Airways flights departed the UK to Sharm el Sheikh this morning and passengers on these flights will embark the ship as planned. The ship will remain in Sharm el Sheikh for a further 24 hours to enable the rest of the passengers to join the ship. This delay will have minimal effect on the itinerary."

Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have issued statements on their Web sites advising passengers what to do based on how they booked (flight inclusive or cruise only). Both will be contacting passengers according to departure dates:

A spokeswoman for Crystal Cruises tells us Crystal Serenity will turn around on Saturday in Civitavecchia, for Rome, and that air-sea guests routed through London are protected on other flights in the event that the airport does not reopen. However, tickets have not yet been changed as current reports indicate the airports could reopen by tomorrow afternoon.

No Disney cruises should be affected as both ships are in the middle of sailings. However, any passengers concerned about travel plans for upcoming cruises should contact the line's reservations department at 877-325-2500.

We will keep you posted as we learn more from the cruise lines.

The precautions have been taken because it is dangerous for aircraft to fly through volcanic ash; there have been cases in the past of engines stalling when they become jammed with particles of rock, sand and glass present in the ash.

Travellers have been advised not to turn up at the airport without checking their flight first. Airlines, including British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair, are offering refunds or the option to rebook.

The ash cloud, which has reached 55,000 feet, is expected to move through northern Britain later today and cross Europe tonight. Weather forecasters say it should lose intensity as it disperses but the volcano is still erupting so the situation over the next few days remains uncertain.

Stay tuned for the latest.

--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor, with additional reporting by Sue Bryant