Celebrity Eclipse postpones launch; helps transport stranded passengers back to the UK

New cruise ship Celebrity Eclipse has cancelled the first leg of her launch celebrations – scheduled to begin on April 22 – in order to assist U.K. travelers whose return from their Easter break has been halted due to the impact of ash clouds from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland.  Celebrity Cruises is working with U.K. tour operators to collect these stranded vacationers affected by the airport closures and subsequent flight cancellations that have affected travellers in Northern Europe.

Celebrity Eclipse will arrive in Southampton as scheduled at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 20, 2010, and will depart that evening to Bilbao, Spain, where she is scheduled to arrive in the early hours of Thursday, April 22.  Stranded travelers will join the ship throughout Thursday morning.  The ship will return to Southampton, arriving late Friday evening. This sailing will replace the activities planned during the two-night, round-trip launch celebration cruise from Southampton.

On her new operation, Celebrity Eclipse will collect the delayed vacationers – some delayed by up to seven days – who were on package holidays with major U.K. tour operators.  Over 2,000 travellers are currently expected to join Celebrity Eclipse in Bilbao.

“The events affecting air travel are completely unprecedented, and it is in times like these that the global travel industry needs to pull together,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman of Celebrity Cruises and chairman and CEO of its parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.  “Collecting stranded British and Irish vacationers is a fitting first mission for new ship Celebrity Eclipse – what better way for a ship dedicated to the U.K. to mark her arrival?”

“We hope that guests initially invited to join the launch celebrations on April 22 will understand the change of plan, and we look forward to welcoming as many of them as possible to the naming ceremony on April 24 instead.”

Celebrity Cruises is working with major U.K. tour operators to try to assist with their challenge to repatriate as many of their customers as possible.  Plans for Celebrity Eclipse remain fluid as the situation regarding reopening air space continues to change. Celebrity Cruises will continue to make updates as circumstances evolve.

The naming celebrations for Celebrity Eclipse are planned to go ahead unchanged, and she will be named by Hampshire yachtswoman and breast cancer survivor Emma Pontin late afternoon on Saturday, April 24.

Celebrity Cruises is working to accommodate guests who were originally scheduled to join the two-night launch celebration sailing on April 22 so they may now attend the two-night naming celebration cruise on April 24 April.  Celebrity Cruises will contact all affected guests directly.

Over the last couple of days the extraordinary closure of the U.K., Irish and northern European airports affected around 6 percent of guests trying to join a Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International or Azamara Club Cruises vessel globally. This includes both those trying to complete return travel at the end of a cruise, or journeys to a ship to embark on a cruise.

Guests booked on a fly/cruise package directly with Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International or Azamara Club Cruises, who were unable to join their sailing, are being offered alternative travel arrangements to join the ship mid-cruise, if possible.  If this cannot be achieved, guests are being offered a full refund of their cruise fare in the form of a future cruise credit or an alternative fly/cruise.  Fly/cruise guests who booked with a tour operator, and not directly with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., should contact their booking partner.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. will work with cruise-only guests who have not booked as part of a package to file a claim with their travel insurance and contact the airline they booked with directly.  Whenever possible, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is making every effort to assist cruise-only guests with the information and services they require.

Additional assistance to affected guests include offering day-room hotel accommodation, assistance booking hotel accommodation, and dedicated help desks in hotels and airports in impacted destinations.

About Cynthia Boal Janssens

Cynthia Boal Janssens is the editor and chief blogger for AllThingsCruise.com. She is a former national president of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). She has sailed on over 40 cruises all over the world.

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