New Icelandic Ash Cloud Threatens Disruption to Flights And Cruises

May 23, 2011
(8:00 a.m. EDT) -- Could it really all be happening again? A volcano in Iceland is spewing ash eight miles into the atmosphere, with uncomfortable echoes of the travel chaos caused a year ago, when ash from Eyjafjallajokull grounded flights all over Europe. The good news is that the situation does not appear as grave as last year's. The volcano, Grimsvotn, has already slowed down, with the eruption less intense than it was when the activity began on Saturday. But according to the U.K. Met Office, which runs Europe's Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, an ash cloud is expected to reach the north of Scotland tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, with possible disruption to flights in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Depending on the wind, the ash could cover larger areas of the U.K. by the end of the week. A statement from Eurocontrol, Europe's Brussels-based air traffic control organisation, said today: “There is currently no impact on European or transatlantic flights and the situation is expected to remain so for the next 24 hours. Aircraft operators are constantly being kept informed of the evolving situation.” Iceland's main airport, Keflavik, is, however, closed, and a no-fly zone has been imposed around the volcano. There's a strong chance that cruise calls at Icelandic ports could be impacted. Because of falling ash, tourists have been evacuated from Iceland's national parks, according to a report on the BBC website. The main season for Iceland cruises doesn't start until June, although MSC Cruises does have a cruise to Iceland departing today. MSC Poesia is due to sail from Kiel in Germany for an 11-night Norway and Iceland cruise, with calls scheduled at Akureyri on May 28, Isafjodur on May 29 and Reykjavik on May 30. A spokeswoman for the line told Cruise Critic this morning: "We are currently waiting to be advised what action we are going to take regarding the MSC Poesia calling into Iceland." We'll keep you posted on the situation as news breaks, so keep checking back. --by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor