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Monday 27 November 2023

Cruise industry chaos in both hemispheres


More bad news for passengers on board “the cruise that will go anywhere that will take us”. 

The proposed stop in Port Arthur is off due to “bad weather”. But bus transfers from Hobart will be available. 

I’m not sure anyone books a cruise to spend up to five hours in a bus. 

And then it got even worse for long-suffering cruise passengers. 

In Brisbane, Royal Caribbean’s Quantam of the Seas sold too many cabins - leaving several groups of travellers unable to embark. 

What a shambles this industry is. 

In the southern hemisphere, cruise passengers looking towards exploring some of the highlights of New Zealand will instead be visiting Tasmania and the south coast of New South Wales.

In the northern hemisphere, gullible folk who signed on for a three-year luxury cruise around the globe will be going absolutely nowhere after their cruise company discovered it did not have a suitable ship.

Cruise companies have a record for shooting themselves in the foot, but the latest catastrophes were biggies, even the by industry's lofty standards.

First off the blocks was P&O Cruises. Owned by Carnival Corporation and headquartered in Sydney, P&O is led by Sture Myrmell, who is a big cheese in the cruise business in Australia.

Yet P&O was not organised enough to have the barnacles scraped off the hull of one of its ships before entering New Zealand, where they are considered a biohazard. The ship was turned around. 

Those affected included a couple who had planned to disembark the cruise and get married in New Zealand. Their wedding had to be scrapped.

P&O had planned to have the ship's hull cleaned by divers off the Bay of Plenty but weather forced that plan to be scrapped. There was no back up plan.

And P&O decided not to wait for better weather but instead divert back to Hobart, Port Arthur and Eden, which was not what those on board the Pacific Adventure (above) had booked and paid for on their 13-day 'Kiwi Adventure' voyage - which will not visit New Zealand at all.

The barnacles are not wanted in New Zealand, but are apparently fine in "clean, green" Tasmania.

In a statement provided to passengers on board, and later shared on social media, P&O said: "Unfortunately the weather has not aligned with the predicted forecast and conditions dramatically changed upon the divers entering the water [to clean the ship]."

Some passengers wanted to return to Sydney, but this was not possible.

Passengers were given a $300 on-board credit and a 50% credit for a future trip, but P&O later said "a more generous compensation offer had been provided after feedback from affected customers".

Translation: Enough passengers kicked up a stink to make us do better."

P&O Cruises Australia, like all cruise companies, alerts customers in its terms and conditions that changes to the itinerary can sometimes be made during the voyage. But that usually covers weather and political occurences, not the company failing to plan properly.

P&O can get in the bin along with Optus.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul, Turkey, a lot of rich folk were stranded after signing up for a cruise that sounded too good to be true. And was. 

Those who signed up and paid for the Life at Sea inaugural cruise - billed as three years travelling in a luxury cruise ship - found there was no ship at. 

Many were left having sold or rented out their homes and with nowhere to return to CNN reported.

The cruise line told passengers that it has no ship, and had cancelled the departure, promising to refund those who’d signed up for cruises costing up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Good luck with that. 

The cruise was originally due to depart Istanbul, Turkey, on November 1, but shortly before that date, departure was postponed to November 11 and relocated to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and then to November 30, again from Amsterdam. 

A total of 111 cabins were apparently sold. 

The company has said it will make repayments in monthly instalments, starting from mid-December. It has also offered to pay for accommodation until December 1 and flights home for anyone now stranded in Istanbul. 

Life at Sea Cruises had reportedly been planning to buy the AIDAaura, a ship retired this summer by AIDA Cruises, a German subsidiary of Carnival Corp. 

It was due to be rechristened as the MV Lara and to be renovated before the voyage. Life at Sea Cruises advertised the ship on its remarkably amateurish website without owning it. 

On November 16, however, Celestyal Cruises said it had purchased the AIDAaura.

Vedat Ugurlu, the owner of Turkish-based Miray Cruises, which operates Life at Sea, said he was "extremely sorry for the inconvenience”. 

He said that while the company had made the down payment for the ship, investors “declined to support us further due to unrest in the Middle East.”

Ugurlu also told passengers that day that the company then tried and failed to buy another ship, and that it was working on a third. Remarkably, bookings are still available on the website. 

The message: If you are booking a cruise then do your homework, know your rights and be prepared to scream and holler if necessary. 

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