Eyjafjallajoekull continues to spew ash into the air, but at a slower rate
Volcanic Fallout Continues
The eruption of the Icelandic Eyjafjallajoekull volcano had an immediate effect on flights over Greenland to points in Northern Europe. As the eruption continued to fill the skies over Great Britain with ash the first airports to close were Northern Ireland and Scotland, but soon flights into Heathrow were also cut back.
As of today the volume of ash output is down by about 80% and most transatlantic carriers have resumed flying. This is good news, but after six days the backlog of stranded travelers still waiting to cross the pond in both directions is incredibly high. The situation is being aided by its sheer enormity, however. Many people who had flights scheduled have decided it is better stay home now, so they have cancelled.
One of the rumors circulating the last few days was that demand for cruise ship travel across the Atlantic had skyrocketed. Well, while that may have been true in theory, the truth is that there was only one regularly scheduled cruise to cross the Atlantic this week, the Cunard Queen Mary 2, and that crossing scheduled to set sail today, had already been sold out for months.
A waitlist was opened and some 1000 people signed up, and it is possible some of them will make it since many of the people scheduled to sail on this voyage were planning to fly to London to catch the ship in Southampton. But the rub is that the voyage takes six days, landing on April 30th, and by that time it appears the backlog of stranded flyers should be mostly cleared up. The ocean liner does represent a "sure thing," but it probably doesn't have any other advantage in terms of transportation expediency from Britain to Europe.
In general, this is the time of year when cruise ships are going to Europe, not leaving. The next upcoming scheduled trans-Atlantic voyages are on Star Princess leaving from Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, April 24th. However, the entire cruise is 28 days, and its first port of call in Europe is Lisbon, Portugal on May 2, eight days later and London on May 5th. It then continues on to Northern Europe including Le Havre (Paris), Rotterdam, Stockholm and finally Copenhagen.
NCL's Norwegian Sun is similar. It leaves April 26 and arrives on the European continent on May 5th. None of the scheduled trans-Atlantic cruises, the vast majority going from the U.S. to Europe, make a landing in Europe before May 5th.
Worst case scenario, however, should ships become the only way to travel, there is another ship crossing the Atlantic from Europe to the U.S, in May. Holland America's Prinsendam leaves Athens on Monday (4-26-10) and lands in New York on May 14th.
If you had a European cruise scheduled and missed it due to flight restrictions we are very sorry. If you purchased travel insurance before the cruise I may have some good news for you. I received this note from John Cook, president of QuoteWright.com, a web site where cruisers can shop for travel insurance policies from various providers.
John tells me that legitimate travel Insurance policies contain 4 separate coverages that might apply:
1. trip cancellation,
2. trip interruption,
3. missed connection, and
4. travel delay.
All four of these are "named peril" coverages which will only provide coverage if the claim was caused by one of the specific covered events.
The ash cloud caused by the eruption can be classified as either a "natural disaster" or an "adverse weather" event. This classification can have a big effect on coverage for trip cancellation and interruption coverage. Under those coverages some, but not all, companies consider "natural disasters" which cause your airline to cease operations to be a covered event. Most of the plans limit coverage for "natural disasters" that make your destination uninhabitable. A more common covered event is "adverse weather" causing your airline to cease operations for a specific time period (usually 24 hours).
If the event is interpreted to be a "natural disaster" coverage might be limited for trip cancellations or interruptions unless it's one of the plans that include "natural disasters" in their covered events that causes your common carrier to cease operations otherwise the question is did it make your destination uninhabitable?
Coverage for travel delay and missed connection is clearer. These coverages are also "named peril" benefits however, the majority of plans include "natural disaster" as a covered event.
"Bottom line is to read your plan carefully and don't assume that there will or will not be coverage," John sums up.
At least one cruise line, Celebrity, came to rescue of several stranded travelers by scheduling an impromptu cruise on the brand new Celebrity Eclipse, just entering service for the first time this week.
The ship is sailing to Bilbao Spain from Southampton to pick up a ship load of stranded travelers and return them to the U.K. That cruise departed on Tuesday and is scheduled to be back in time for its naming ceremony on Saturday, April 24th. CruiseMates had a reporter scheduled to fly to Heathrow from Boston to see the ceremony, but unfortunately her arrangements had to be cancelled.
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