Eruption Disruption for European Cruises?

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Direct Line Cruises, Inc. reports that the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland has had little apparent impact on European cruise departures.

Although last month’s volcanic eruption in Iceland has all but paralyzed air traffic in and out of central Europe, cruise departures have remained relatively unscathed.

Tom Coiro, Vice President of Direct Line Cruises (one of the largest cruise only agencies in the U.S.) reports, “So far, we have not received any notifications from our cruise line partners regarding delayed departures or itinerary cancellations as a result of the volcanic activity.”

Messages on cruise line websites (which sometimes provide special advisories for travel agents) would appear to confirm that it’s pretty much “business as usual” for the cruise lines. For example, an April 16 posting on the Norwegian Cruise Line web site simply states, “Embarkation for Norwegian Jade in Barcelona, Spain on Sunday, April 18 will continue as scheduled.” In an April 18 posting, Royal Caribbean’s “Cruising Power” web site (which provides information to travel agents regarding Royal Caribbean, Azamara and Celebrity Cruises), advises, “Those guests traveling on cruises departing April 19 who are unable to travel to the ship due to airport closures, and who purchased air arrangements through Royal Caribbean, Celebrity or Azamara, will be provided a refund of their airfare and a 100 percent Future Cruise Certificate in the amount of the cruise fare paid.”

But, what about cruise passengers who made their own air travel arrangements? According to Tom Coiro, “That’s one of the reasons why travel insurance is so important. Most policies provide full reimbursement if someone misses their cruise because an airline or airport is closed down for more than 24 hours due to bad weather or a natural disaster…and the volcanic eruption in Iceland would certainly appear to fit that description.” But, Mr. Coiro doesn’t just “encourage” his clients to purchase travel insurance. Direct Line Cruises actually buys travel insurance for all of its clients who book a cruise five nights or longer. Coiro continues, “It costs us a bundle and we don’t build the premium into the cruise fare. But, in my opinion, it’s well worth it because I know that clients of Direct Line Cruises are protected against unforeseen situations like this one.”

Has the volcanic eruption affected cruise bookings? “There’s hardly been any impact at Direct Line Cruises because only a small percentage of the cruises we sell are to Europe, the Mediterranean or the Baltics,” Tom responds. “In fact,” he continues, “we’ve actually gotten a few unusual inquiries as a direct result of the volcano. In one case, we got a call from an English gentlemen who was on business in Miami and knew he wouldn’t be able to get home for a while because of the airline situation, so he booked a cruise with us to make the best use of his unplanned extra time in the U.S. In another case, we had someone call us who was stranded in Europe and wanted to get back home to the States via a transatlantic cruise. Go figure!”

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Greg Coiro