The first leg of UK launch celebrations for new ship Celebrity Eclipse have been cancelled so the ship can help rescue holidaymakers stranded in the volcanic ash airspace shutdown
Celebrity Cruises is working with UK tour operators to collect more than 2,000 holidaymakers affected by the airport closures and subsequent flight cancellations.
The 2,852-passenger vessel is due to arrive in Southampton as scheduled this morning (Tuesday) and will depart this evening to Bilbao where it is set to arrive in the early hours of Thursday.
Stranded holidaymakers will embark the ship throughout Thursday morning and the ship will return to Southampton, arriving late on Friday evening.
The mercy mission will replace activities planned during a two-night launch celebration cruise from Southampton.
Eclipse will collect delayed holidaymakers – some by up to seven days – who were on package holidays with major UK tour operators.
The naming celebrations for the ship are planned to go ahead unchanged, and Celebrity Eclipse will be named by Hampshire yachtswoman and breast cancer survivor Emma Pontin late afternoon on Saturday.
Celebrity Cruises is working to switch guests who were scheduled to join a two-night launch celebration sailing on Thursday on the two-night naming celebration cruise on Saturday. Celebrity Cruises will contact all affected guests directly.
The closure of the UK, Irish and northern European airports affected around six per cent of people 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.
Company chairman and CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Richard Fain said:”The events affecting air travel are completely unprecedented, and it is in times like these that the global travel industry needs to pull together.
“Collecting stranded British and Irish holidaymakers is a fitting first mission for
new ship Celebrity Eclipse – what better way for a ship dedicated to the UK to mark her arrival?”
“We hope that guests initially invited to join the launch celebrations on 22 April will understand the change of plan, and we look forward to welcoming as many of them as possible to the naming ceremony on 24 April instead.”
Celebrity Cruises is working with major UK 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 re-opening air space continues to change. Celebrity Cruises will continue to make updates as circumstances evolve, the company said.