As Cruise West Folds, Small-Ship Lines Try to Court the Displaced

September 24, 2010
American-Safari-Cruise-Safari-Quest (4:30 p.m. EDT) -- Passengers previously booked with Cruise West, the family-run line that ceased operations on Saturday after 64 years in the industry, are being vigorously courted by a pair of small-ship lines. American Safari Cruises, a small-ship Alaska cruise operator, and Orion Expedition Cruises, an Australian-based "soft adventure" line, are specifically targeting displaced Cruise West passengers with special deals on cruises both familiar (Alaska) and far-flung (Papua New Guinea).

American Safari Cruises. The three-ship line created by former Cruise West execs is offering deals on upcoming cruises to Southeast Alaska, the Sea of Cortes, and the Columbia and Snake Rivers -- three Cruise West destination staples. American Safari Cruises' ships carry 12 to 36 passengers, and are more upscale than Cruise West, with a higher passenger-to-crew ratio and amenities like wine and spirits included in the fare.

For October and November, American Safari Cruises will offer its own Columbia and Snake river cruises to displaced Cruise West passengers at the same rate they paid for the now-canceled sailings. That amounts to a savings of roughly 13 to 24 percent, said Tim Jacox, ASC's vice president of sales and marketing. American Safari Cruises' published rates for various October sailings range from $4,295 to $7,395, depending on cabin category.

For winter/spring 2011 Mexico's Sea of Cortes departures, the line is offering former Cruise West passengers a 25 percent discount off of published American Safari Cruises fares. For 2011 cruises on Alaska's Inside Passage, Cruise West passengers can receive a $300 per person discount. ASC's value-priced, Alaska-based sister brand, InnerSea Discoveries, is offering a discount of $150 for its own Inside Passage sailings. The sister lines have established a dedicated phone line for upended Cruise West passengers (877-405-9490).

Read more about American Safari Cruises, including six reader reviews.

Orion Expedition Cruises. Orion, an Australian-based "luxury soft adventure" line, is offering reduced-price expedition voyages to passengers booked on now-canceled Cruise West sailings. Passengers who provide Cruise West documentation can save 25 percent on Papua New Guinea 2010 and 2011 sailings, 25 percent on Antarctica sailings in December 2010 or January 2011, 20 percent on Kimberley sailings in 2011, and 20 percent on any Orion II cruise in 2011. (Orion II is set to debut in May 2011 and will be based in Southeast Asia.) All remaining itineraries, which include cruises around Australia (including to the Great Barrier Reef), will be discounted by 50 percent.

All transfer bookings must be made by October 31, 2010, and reduced fares are not combinable with any other offer -- so be sure to ask about other offers or promotions, in case they're a better deal. Contact a travel agent or Orion Expeditions (877-674-6687) for more info.

Read more about Orion Expedition Cruises.

Lindblad Expeditions. Sven-Olof Lindblad, the owner of Lindblad Expeditions, a globetrotting, National Geographic-affiliated line that sails in Alaska, the Galapagos and Antarctica, sent a special letter about the Cruise West situation to travel agents. The letter says that Lindblad will do its "best to try and mitigate any difficulties for both [the agents] and [the displaced]." The letter notes that the line will deal with the displaced on a case by case basis -- and so the terms did not outline specifics on discounts, reduced deposits, etc.

Read more about Lindblad Expeditions.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor

Comment on this story.