Premier Cruises Abandoning Ship?

September 14, 2000

The five-fleet Premier Cruises, which has of late, been suffering financial setbacks, is reportedly asking passengers to disembark mid-cruise on four of its vessels -- the Big Red Boat I (now in the Bahamas), Big Red Boat III (in Mexico), SeaBreeze (Halifax) and Rembrandt (Halifax), according to Cruise Week, an industry trade publication. Passengers are being flown back to their original ports. Nor was the line accepting future bookings Thursday. Calls to Premier's reservations center Thursday afternoon were answered by automation: "Our office is closed due to a facility problem."

Rumors about the line's financial health have been circulating since June, when Premier laid off 10 percent of its workforce. The line was dealt another blow last week when the International Council of Cruise Lines announced they were terminating Premier's membership. This morning, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association said they may cancel Premier's membership due to non-payment of dues.

What's responsible for Premier's financial shortfall? The current over-building of cruise ships -- where there are, for the moment anyway, more berths than passengers -- has resulted in an almost-unprecedented fare-slashing campaign, which has made it even more difficult for Premier, a budget line, to compete with glitzy mega-cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Says Ed Didion of Didion World Cruises, in Washington, D.C., "cruise prices today are just ridiculously low" because supply far exceeds demand.

By Carolyn Spencer-Brown