Cruise Ships Arrive Back in U.K. With Ash-Stranded Travellers

April 23, 2010
Island Escape Cruise Ship

(10 a.m. EDT) -- Celebrity Cruises' brand-new Celebrity Eclipse, which will be christened tomorrow in Southampton, is first completing a rescue mission to help travellers stranded far from home due to the volcanic ash cloud that caused global chaos this month.

The ship is currently on its way back to Southampton from Bilbao, Spain, where it picked up 2,000 holidaymakers who could not fly home from package tours. Tour operators Thomson, First Choice, Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel Group (CTTG) worked in conjunction with Celebrity to organise the repatriation cruise; passengers received their accommodations for free. (Celebrity also made 50 staterooms available to Britons identified as having an urgent need to return to the U.K., organised with assistance from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's crisis team in Madrid.)

The Daily Mail reports today that Celebrity also offered its unexpected guests Champagne to kick off their final journey home. Passengers were also provided with meals and entertainment.

Meanwhile, Thomson's Island Escape arrived in Falmouth, Cornwall, this morning following a similar rescue mission. The ship -- which usually operates fly-cruises in the Mediterranean -- made the stopover to drop off current passengers who weren't be able to return to the U.K. via the original flights included in the air portion of their booking. The ship also repatriated more than 300 non-cruise Thomson customers holidaying in Madeira.

The ship docked at 11:45 a.m. BST and will depart later this evening for Cadiz, Spain, where it will resume its regular itinerary (passengers who had expected to board in the Canary Islands for a repositioning cruise to Palma de Mallorca were brought to Falmouth by coach to join the ship).

Celebrity Eclipse is due into Southampton later today, between 5 and 7 p.m. BST; you can watch for it on the port's Web cam, here. Then, stay tuned this weekend for our coverage of the ship's christening -- Cruise Critic will be on the scene!

--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor

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