Volcanic ash from Iceland has ascended over Europe and is affecting air travel to, from and within the region just as the new European cruise season is getting underway. This is proof that we had not yet seen “everything.” We are affected by the interaction of a still-erupting volcano and an uncertain wind and weather pattern. These factors are about as far beyond our control as is imaginable. As a result, we are dealing with this challenge on a day to day and even hour to hour basis. Our goal is to enable as many people as possible to board our ships before the ships must depart to maintain all or nearly all of their scheduled itineraries. While our primary focus is on the ships in Europe, there are also ships in the Caribbean and elsewhere that are expecting guests originating from Europe. We are hoping that the situation abates but working intensively on it while it persists.
This situation is obviously about far more than our issues or even the cruise industry’s issues. Besides airlines it has implications for hotels, rental cars, trains, ferries and every other element of travel and leisure. We need to take all of this into account.
As always, we protect our guests who have purchased air transportation through us. For example, guests who purchased air arrangements through Royal Caribbean and who were scheduled to travel on cruises departing on April 18th, and whose travel became impossible due to airport closures, will be provided a refund of their air fare and a Future Cruise Certificate in the amount of the cruise fare paid.
This situation presents much more complexity than what we usually face with downline protection for a limited number of guests. This bizarre set of circumstances is a powerful reminder of the benefits of purchasing travel insurance with trip cancellation protection. It’s impossible to generalize what coverage will be provided in this instance, but having coverage is very likely to be preferable to having no coverage.
While this is a “case of first impression” as the lawyers like to say, our key people know their roles and responsibilities in a situation and assume them seamlessly. Given the time difference between the US and Europe, the first conference call of each morning occurs at 5 a.m. Eastern time. We are obviously monitoring the progress of the cloud of debris as well as any pronouncements from national authorities about the implications of the situation on their airports and air flights. For example, at the moment we know that British Airways has cancelled flights on Monday and UK airspace will not open before at least 7 a.m. UK time. We discuss all of this by email and phone as a management team as each day unfolds and try to agree as quickly as possible on any information to post on our web site or issue in the form of a letter to our guests currently onboard.
Under the present strange circumstances we expect to deal with unforeseeable nuances every day. One issue that is more than a nuance is that our crew are affected as well, either not being able to go home or not being able to get to their ship. I’m sure we are far from alone in this.
If you are affected, please stay tuned to royalcaribbean.com for the latest information.