Sunday, September 19, 2010


The cruise industry has been abuzz the last two weeks about the apparent demise of Cruise West, a small-ship company that for almost 40 years provided a loyal client base with up-close-and-personal visits to ports of call. Earlier this year, the line announced plans to add a Great Lakes itinerary next summer, and just a couple of months ago teased all of us with its intentions to bring back Mississippi River cruising starting next spring.

However, word arrived about a week ago that CW suddenly ended a world cruise this month about halfway through its 10-month journey. In addition, the Seattle Times reported that 65 Cruise West employees were recently laid off and the reservations center shut down.

Although hopes had been held out for a purchase and/or restructuring, prospects have apparently not worked out at this point. As a matter of fact, the Times article goes on to quote the text from a bulletin issued by the Federal Maritime Commission:

“West Travel, Inc., doing business as the cruise line Cruise West, has notified the Federal Maritime Commission that it is canceling all cruises that were scheduled to begin this past Saturday, September 18, and on all dates that follow, with the exception of the September 22 Danube Cruise (in Europe). It completed cruises of the Spirit of 98 and Spirit of Endeavour that ended in Portland and Seattle on Saturday, September 18.”

We are saddened by this news. Cruise West cruises were never cheap, but they were, after all, on US ships operated by US crew. We’re not talking about less expensive international crew and operations here. But every client we have booked on Cruise West became a fan, especially those cruising to Alaska. Ship captains exercised their freedom to alter itineraries a bit, take a little longer en route for a wildlife sighting, and get much closer to glaciers than the big ships could for better views. The dress code was casual, and passengers numbered 80-130, not 1500-3000.

Moreover, we continue to receive inquiries about cruises on US rivers like the Mississippi and Ohio and hope financial backing will one day open the doors to such an operation. In the meantime, I fear we must bid farewell to a first-rate, family-run operation--felled, it would seem, by the tough economy and increasing fuel costs.

On a much brighter note, many lines are in the midst of sales and special offers right now. In my
September 7 posting, I mentioned the Royal Caribbean offer, but there are more: Carnival has a cash-back sale, and several upscale lines (Azamara, Oceania, Crystal, and Silversea) are offering onboard credit and/or prepaid gratuities and/or two-for-one pricing on select itineraries.

We still have space on our Holy Land cruise October 15-26, 2011, on the NCL Jade roundtrip from Rome. We always have a great time on the cruises we personally escort and invite you to consider joining us and the many others who have already deposited. Call or email us for pricing and details.

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