Cruise West closing doors?

This has been rumored off and on all summer, but now certainly appears to be the case.

Bummer for all those licenses hitting the streets. Cruise West has to employ, what, 50 or so mariners?

So far it just looks like the Spirit of Oceanus is the only casualty, but who knows. It has looked as if they were more of a travel agency than a cruiseline for the last year or so. Many of the bookings were not for their own ships. For the sake of the crews and myself I hope they [B]don’t[/B] suddenly hit the streets looking for work.

I’ve got a friend very close to the situation who is getting information not made public that indicates that Cruise West has been out of cash for some months now and was in effect selling cruises on vessels for voyages next year which they knew they couldn’t make happen such as on the Mississippi River and then using that cash to float this years operations. Of course, that gets into serious legal matters what would involve the Federal Maritime Commission and if they do not have the bond funds in place to refund those tickets, then somebody is going to answer some very dicey questions from the Feds!

It also is interesting to note the absolutely abysmal record of small passenger cruise vessel companies in the past 25 years. Here is a list of the fatalities:

-American Cruise Line (died in 1987 but reborn in 2000 and actually appearing to be making a go of it now)
-Exploration Cruise Line (died in 1988)
-Delta Queen Coastal Voyages (died in 2002)
-Clipper Cruise lines (died in 2006)
-Glacier Bay Cruise Line (died in 2006)
-Majestic America Cruise Lines (died in 2008)
-Cruise West (died 2010)

My god, how can any investor even sniff at an industry that is filled with so many rotting corpses?

Anyway…stay tuned for new developments as they occur.

I guess that is official from the company now. And they are saying, in so many words, that they do not have the money to refund that fares.

[B]Cruise West lays off Seattle staff, financially strands some passengers[/B]
By Kristin Jackson, Seattle Times Travel editor-writer

Seattle’s financially-sinking Cruise West company is laying off 65 employees and has left some passengers desperately seeking refunds after it abruptly ended a world cruise and halted reservations.

The cruise line, which has offered small-ship cruises in North America and beyond, also stopped accepting new bookings this week. It said it would operate some cruises through October, including departures from Seattle and Portland on Saturday, as it tries to restructure.

However, its reservations office was closed Thursday and its website, full of colorful cruise photos and descriptions earlier this week, now contains only a statement about the company’s difficulties. The company refused to answer media inquiries.

Many Cruise West employees have lost or will lose their jobs. Twenty-four were laid off Wednesday and another 41 will be laid off starting Friday, said Washington’s Employment Security Department, which received the legally-required layoff notification from the company.

Cruise West terminated a world cruise aboard its flagship 120-passenger Spirit of Oceanus in Newfoundland, Canada, earlier this week. On its global sailing, the ship was to visit 59 countries from April this year to February 2011; many passengers had signed up for months of cruises and paid tens of thousands of dollars. Tammy Hinshaw of Michigan was aboard the ship on a series of cruises around the world. After a three-week break, she and her partner were scheduled for many more weeks of cruising beginning Oct. 3 — for which they paid Cruise West 10 days ago.

“Two other passengers were scheduled to be on board until Feb. 3, and one passenger was scheduled to arrive Oct. 3 and remain on board until Feb. 3,” Hinshaw said. “To give you an idea of how much money is at stake, Cruise West owes these five passengers (including myself and my partner) well over a quarter of a million dollars.”

“I foresee ugly litigation and potentially the demise of Cruise West. What a mess!” said Hinshaw.

[B]What can passengers do?[/B]

Passengers whose cruises have been canceled have some recourse.

• Travelers who paid by credit card have protection under federal fair-credit laws if services are not rendered. Contact the credit-card issuer.

• Those who bought travel insurance from a third party should file a claim with the insurer. Travelers should be aware that a cruise line’s own insurance policies don’t cover the default of the company. (However, insurance policies purchased from companies such as Travel Guard do cover the default of airlines, tour operators and cruise lines under some circumstances.)

• If passengers paid by cash or check (and don’t have travel insurance), getting money back could be more difficult. In the event of a bankruptcy, such clients are unsecured creditors and are at the end of the line for refunds. Cruise West asked that those who paid by cash/check e-mail the company at

Hinshaw e-mailed the company, but has received no details about refunds. Having happily dealt with Cruise West for almost 20 years, she and her partner paid more than $50,000 by check for their multiple cruises, lured by the company’s offer of a 2 percent discount for those who didn’t pay with a credit card.

“In retrospect it was an incredibly dumb thing to do … but many of the other passengers who are owed substantial amounts of money also paid by check, for the same reason,” said Hinshaw. She and her partner did not purchase travel insurance because of its high price, and they didn’t know of Cruise West’s financial woes.

[B]Long history[/B]

Cruise West was founded in 1973 by the late Chuck West, who started one of the first Alaska tour companies in the 1940s and later became a dominant figure in the growth of Alaskan tourism.

Cruise West expanded under family leadership and offered nature-focused cruises from Seattle to Alaska on its small ships, plus voyages along the Columbia and Snake rivers and worldwide sailings aboard the Spirit of Oceanus.

[QUOTE=c.captain;41822]My god, how can any investor even sniff at an industry that is filled with so many rotting corpses?[/QUOTE]

Truer words were never said! Only small cruiseline that has demonstrated staying power is Lindblad.

[QUOTE=Capt. Fran;41904]Truer words were never said! Only small cruiseline that has demonstrated staying power is Lindblad.[/QUOTE]

My inside source tells me that even Lindblad is not as healthy as one might think. Their two US flag boats are not selling well and the cost to convert the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER was much higher than originally planned.

Even the foreign flagged small expedition vessel operators are not out of the woods…consider the horrible fate of Society Expeditions with their death throws going on and on eventually stranding their passengers in Nome!

The sad reality is that to operate any cruise vessel with only 100 or so passengers to distant waters requires pax per day fares at least $1000. The big lines will offer a whole week for less than that even to places like Alaska. The number of potential passengers who can affort a true expedition cruise is painfully small to the great detriment of expedition cruise operators. It’s sadly just bloody hard to make the numbers work for small ships, because to me they offer much more to their passengers than any 3500pax beheamoth

Officially closed for business on September 18th.

Cruise West today announced that they will cease operations on Saturday, September 18th. For the last year, Cruise West has aggressively pursued a number of options with interested parties to maintain operations, including investment, selling assets, and selling the company. In part because of the most recent dip in the markets and the continued lack of economic confidence, these options have not come to fruition.

“I have never given up hope that we might be able to find a way to survive by working with various interested parties. I am absolutely heartbroken that this family legacy has come to an end,” shared Dick West, Cruise West’s Chairman and Managing Director. “We have a product that appeals to the type of traveler who wants to experience the destination, not the inside of a ship. We have a passionate following of repeat guests and I am particularly distressed that our most loyal guests who have booked with us will now not be able to travel. We have done absolutely everything to maintain operations, but with limited resources and the current tight financial market, we simply cannot continue.”

With the exception of the September 22 Danube Cruise, Cruise West has canceled all future cruises in 2010 and beyond and Cruise West has taken steps to notify booked guests via phone, email, and through media outlets. “It is with a heavy heart that we close our doors, knowing that guests, travel agents, and partners will not receive the personal attention that they have grown to expect from us,” said Dick West.

“I want to extend my most sincere thanks to our loyal employees, many of which have been here for decades. I am devastated that, though they have given abundantly of their time and energy, we will be unable to continue delivering memorable experiences,” continued Dick West. Last week, Cruise West commenced layoffs of their staff, with a very small staff staying on to help with shutdown efforts."

As far as I understand it, the remaining boats owned by CW at the time of their collapse have been purchased. They will be managed (perhaps under the CW brand) by InnerSea Discoveries. The boats are the Discovery, the 98 and the Endeavour.

[QUOTE=Sf_deckhand;42205]As far as I understand it, the remaining boats owned by CW at the time of their collapse have been purchased. They will be managed (perhaps under the CW brand) by InnerSea Discoveries. The boats are the Discovery, the 98 and the Endeavour.[/QUOTE]

My close sources says that no purchase deals have been finalized yet although negotiations are taking place. The three vessels in question are the Spirits of Yorktown, Endeavor and Discovery. Spirit of Glacier Bay (ex Nantucket) was hogged so badly after her grounding in Glacier Bay in '08 as to be nearly a CTL. I honestly do not know anything about the remaining vessels in the fleet…Spirits of Alaska, Columbia and '98. Those three plus the sternwheelers leftover from Majestic America Line leave a bloody shyte load of small passenger cruise vessels for sale and there is still the two ex Delta Queen coastal voyages vessels which were purchased but not operating. My god what a buyer’s market it must be if you wanted to get into the business but with the fatality rate of these companies who would want to?

I hope that InnerSeas Discoveries does make it however. I know that they will not make any of the same mistakes as Dick West did. A one man wrecking crew he was. Poor Chuck West’s ghost!

I can’t remember which ones, but I know that ACL bought one or two ships from Majestic. They at least seem to be making ago of it. And I guess that Blount is also doing OK.

I remember reading that ACL was starting a subsidiary called Pearl Seas and having two small ships (just over 3000 ITC tons) built up in Halifax. They’ve had a website for a couple of years, but they never seem to have started operations. Does anyone know the status?

Now you mention it, I remember that too. I will have to do some research.