Readers Respond as Cruise West Struggles

September 11, 2010

Spirit of Oceanus
(1:40 p.m. EDT) -- This weekend, there's still no new information about the status of Cruise West; earlier this week, we first reported that Seattle-based Cruise West cancelled its epic 335-night cruise mid-voyage, was taken over by new management and had frozen all new bookings.

Cruise line representatives have yet to respond to our requests for comment and likely won't, at least in the near future; a press release issued September 8 regarding the restructuring of the company stated that no media calls would be taken. However, passengers onboard as well as those who previously sailed with Cruise West are weighing in.

On Cruise Critic's Message Boards and Facebook

"My family was at a hotel recently that closed for business during our stay. We were told we had to check out as the hotel was being taken over by the bank. It's not just cruises." - Kerry H.

"I really was jealous of everyone who was able to take this cruise, so it makes me kind of sad that they aren't going to be able to complete this epic journey." - Dawn M.

"What did they expect when they booked a 'Voyages of the Great Explorers' cruise? They're in for a real adventure. Even Magellan didn't finish his voyage around the world." -Mickey M.

Also intriguing is a thread posted by member rafinmd, who's currently sailing in Alaska onboard Cruise West's Spirit of Columbia. Curiously, at press time, there is no reference to the company's troubles in this virtual report. Whether there's any talk onboard about what's happening with the line remains to be seen. We'll be watching this thread closely.

Via E-Mail

Cruise Critic Contributor Steve Faber writes, "Having recently debarked Spirit of Oceanus I have a number of thoughts on the world cruise debacle. There's an old adage: The shoemaker should stick to his lasts, and I think this applies to the way the world cruise was conceptualized…. If potential passengers don't feel they are buying the Cruise West experience (at top dollar, one might add), then why choose Cruise West in a marketplace that has plenty of other, experienced players to choose from?

"There was a real failure in itinerary planning for this segment of the world cruise in that almost all port calls involved the type of touring that can be had on any conventional ship. Over 16 days, we called at 12 ports at which touring took place by bus tour."

Reader Tammy Hinshaw, who initially tipped us off to the Cruise West situation, tells us, "Thankfully, my better half and I were scheduled to get off at St. John's. However, we were also scheduled to return to the ship on October 3 in Palm Beach, so, as of Sunday evening, we were entertaining the idea of staying aboard until then. Thank goodness we didn't give the company any money; it'd owe us even more than it already does!"

Member JHSmythe, who was also onboard, points out via e-mail that all but a handful of passengers were set to disembark at St. John's and deems reports of passengers being "offloaded" mid-cruise a bit misleading. Indeed, world cruises are often booked as segments. In December 2009, Wertanzl told us just two solo travelers had signed up for the full 11 months at sea. Of the rest, 85 percent booked a single voyage with 15 percent booking two or more segments. Of course, Cruise West is not talking to the media, so we've been unable to obtain firm, current numbers.

In a last bit of bad news, the Seattle Times reports that "many Cruise West employees have lost or will lose their jobs. Twenty-four were laid off Wednesday and another 41 will be laid off starting Friday, said Washington's Employment Security Department, which received the legally required layoff notification from the company."

Stay tuned.

--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor, and Dan Askin, Associate Editor