Money Matters: Small-Ship Line Takes Out Loan

July 20, 2010

(11:50 p.m. EDT) -- Seattle-based Cruise West, which operates small-ship cruises in regions like Alaska, British Columbia and Costa Rica, has secured a $1.5 million loan to continue operations, according to a report today on, a news outlet geared toward travel agents. The line is reportedly seeking additional financing via investment bankers while also exploring the possibility of selling Spirit of Oceanus (then leasing it back from the buyer).

More interesting than that is this quote, which attributes to an internal company e-mail from Cruise West Chairman Dick West: "...given our very tenuous situation, we cannot take cash bookings any longer without the guests buying third party insurance to protect their payment. Or we can accept credit cards, which also provides the consumer protection for our guests."

When we contacted Cruise West spokespersons for confirmation today, however, we were told that nothing has changed regarding the line's payment policies. Travel insurance is not required but is recommended, regardless of the method of payment. What has been eliminated is a promotion whereby passengers who paid their final payment by cash or wire transfer received a 2 percent discount.

"We have seen an increase in revenue in both new and existing itineraries," Dietmar Wertanzl, president and CEO of Cruise West, shares with Cruise Critic via a prepared statement. "As a result, we decided to eliminate our promotional offer allowing guests a 2 percent cash discount. Aside from the end of this promotion, our payment policies remain unchanged. We have always encouraged guests to get travel protection and will continue to do so. We will continue to accept all forms of payment. However, we want to encourage our guests to use credit cards since they provide an additional layer of consumer protection. If a guest wants to use cash or wire transfer, we will be happy to oblige."

According to Cruise West, the confusion is due to information in the internal e-mail cited being taken out of context.

Just how much the cash infusion from this loan or future financing will strengthen Cruise West's outlook remains to be seen. In the meantime, we want to know: Would you book with a cruise line that might be in financial trouble (especially if it's a line you love) in the hopes of supporting the company and having a great trip to boot -- or would you wait it out? Tell us!

--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor

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