Is Ash Cloud Set to Cause More Cruise Travel Chaos?

May 5, 2010
Update, 5:30 a.m. EDT: The ash cloud has now moved away to the west of Ireland, meaning that all airspace is now reopen.

(May 5) -- The return of the volcanic ash cloud is causing travel misery for a second day, with airspace closures in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland today.

At this point, the potential cruise impact is minimal, though cruise travellers heading from the North and Ireland may have trouble if attempting to get to a fly-cruise departure port.

The latest statement from Britain's air traffic control body, NATS, states that from 1 p.m. BST (8 a.m. EDT) there is a no-fly zone for Belfast, Isle of Man and Edinburgh airports.

Earlier this morning, NATS advised that airspace in Western Scotland and Northern Ireland had been closed from 7 a.m. BST (2 a.m. EDT) and will remain closed until at least 7 p.m. BST (2 p.m. EDT) today, when NATS will assess the cloud. The Irish Aviation Authority has also restricted flights out of the major Irish airports this morning, including Dublin and Shannon.

Yesterday, there was a ban on flights in Ireland, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland but it was lifted by the afternoon. Today however, the Met Office shows the ash cloud is continuing to move south and change shape, which could impact airports in the north of England -- although no airports have been closed at this point.

Cruise travellers due to travel from impacted airports are advised to contact their airline.

Last month, flights over much of Europe were banned for six days due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Cruise ship schedules were also disrupted with many passengers unable to get to their embarkation port.

However, a number of cruise ships came to the rescue of ash-stranded travellers. Celebrity Cruises' brand new Celebrity Eclipse embarked on a last-minute rescue mission to Bilbao, Spain, ahead of its launch celebrations. The cruise line worked with U.K. tour operators to collect 2,000 holidaymakers and bring them home to Southampton.

Thomson Cruises' Thomson Dream and Island Escape also played a part in repatriating customers. Instead of disembarking passengers in the Canary Islands, Island Escape sailed to Falmouth, Cornwall, to drop guests off and pick up embarking passengers.

--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor