Ahead of severe storms that are expected to batter Britain over the weekend, a leading cruise line has delayed one of its ships by three days – wrecking the travel plans of thousands already on board or due to sail.
Royal Caribbean has told passengers aboard its ship Explorer of the Seas that they will not be calling at Vigo or La Coruña in Spain. And instead of docking in Southampton next Tuesday morning, 5 November, they will spend an extra three nights on board.
The ship’s late arrival back in the UK means that more than 3,000 passengers booked on a transatlantic voyage will depart three days late.
Explorer of the Seas was due to sail from Southampton on Tuesday 5 November in the afternoon, and cross the ocean in a week. Passengers had booked in the expectation of spending a full day in each of St Lucia, Barbados, Dominica and Antigua, ending at Miami on 19 November.
But passengers have now been told the voyage will start on Friday 8 November, and miss out all four Caribbean islands on the original itinerary.
Instead the ship will call at the Dutch island of St Maarten, which requires less of a detour en route to Miami.
Initially Royal Caribbean told passengers that if they wished to cancel they would be given a “future cruise credit”. But it is now offering refunds to anyone who decides to cancel.
For passengers who go ahead with the sailing, Royal Caribbean is offering a pro-rata refund of the cruise days missed. In addition passengers will be offered a credit note to the same value “so that you can come back and sail with us” at some time in the next two years.
In an email to passengers headed “About your upcoming travels,” the cruise line says: “We’ve been carefully monitoring four storms with our chief meteorologist, James van Fleet, that have impacted the current Explorer of the Seas sailing, which in turn impacts our route while crossing the Transatlantic [sic].
“These storms are large, growing, and moving quickly, at different times. Unfortunately, when one passes, the other makes its way into our path. So, to avoid rough seas and a bumpy journey, we were forced to change our current itinerary.”
The company says: “We are confident you’ll have a wonderful holiday.”
Passengers currently on board Explorer of the Seas have been told their 11-night “Sunshine in the Canaries” voyage has been extended to two weeks.
The ship is currently off the coast of Morocco. One couple, Phil and Michelle from Shropshire, told The Independent: “We run a small business and will have to cancel work and appointments.
“We are travelling with an elderly relative who has hospital appointments, which we are trying to reschedule.
“At home we have dogs and cats in boarding kennels, which we have to try and extend.
The ship will call additionally at Malaga and Lisbon on its way back to Southampton. Passengers will be able to leave the ship in the Portuguese capital and fly home.
But Royal Caribbean has capped the payment for flights and additional costs at £310 per person.
The cheapest flight from Lisbon to Gatwick on Tuesday is £144 on easyJet, but this does not include baggage – nor the £36 train fare from Gatwick to Southampton for passengers who have cars parked at the port.
Passengers who remain on board will be provided with meals, which will cost the cruise line around £10 per person per day.
They have also been provided with free phone calls to help rearrange their trips, and half-an-hour of internet use. But they will be expected to pay normal prices for onboard drinks and other purchases.