(7:30 p.m. EDT) -- After more than a day of silence, Cruise West has finally issued a press release, acknowledging the cancellation of Spirit of Oceanus' world cruise and the restructuring of the company. Yet the company statement reveals no details of that restructuring plan nor does it hint at whether the cruise line or any of its ships have been sold...or not.
Here's what it does say:
Cruise West continues "to work towards a restructuring of the company and its operations," and may sell assets to do so.
Spirit of Oceanus' 335-night world cruise, referred to as the Voyage of the Great Explorers, has been canceled, with that cruise ending at the current segment's scheduled port of debarkation. Cruise Critic reader Tammy Hinshaw, who was onboard that sailing, confirmed that passengers were asked to disembark in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Passengers booked on Spirit of Oceanus are encouraged to file a claim with their travel insurance company or with their credit card company to seek reimbursement for their cruise fares. Passengers who paid by cash or check and did not purchase insurance, are asked to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. According to Hinshaw, Cruise West offered travelers a 2 percent discount to pay for cruises via check instead of credit card, so "many of the other passengers who are owed substantial amounts of money also paid by check," as did she. Because it's much more difficult to collect a refund in just such a circumstance when you pay by cash or check rather than credit card, Cruise Critic always recommends paying cruise fares by credit card whenever possible.
Cruise West is no longer accepting new bookings. However, the line will operate its U.S.-flagged ships in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest through October 2010. Spirit of Endeavour will continue to sail its British Columbia cruises out of Seattle and Spirit of '98 will sail its Columbia and Snake Rivers cruises out of Portland. Any Alaska cruises or land tours already in progress will operate through their scheduled end dates. (Cruise West's Alaska season wraps up in September anyway.)
Here's what we still don't know:
Does Cruise West have new ownership, and has Spirit of Oceanus been sold? The cruise line does not say, and the statement says that executives will not respond to media inquiries. Hinshaw writes, "I've heard via the grapevine that the ship has been purchased by a Swedish company," but that remains an unsubstantiated rumor for now.
Will Cruise West issue any refunds? The line did not say outright whether they would offer refunds or not. However, it is odd that Cruise West asked passengers to contact their travel insurance providers and credit card companies first -- usually those entities pay up only if the travel provider does not.
Will there be Cruise West sailings after October 2010? So far, no information is available about next year's cruise season. Interestingly, Hinshaw tells us that "Cruise West cashed a substantial check from my partner and I, for one of the VOGE II cruises [scheduled to take place in 2011], approximately four business days before we were informed of the ship's sale."
We'll keep you posted as more information becomes available.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
Cruise West Cancels World Cruise, Still Silent on Restructuring Plan