(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Will Iceland’s Eyjafjallajakull volcano affect your cruise plans? As my husband and I prepare to book a 2010 cruise, it has figured into the mix of things we consider when selecting our perfect vacation. Unless one has been living in a cave, most every would be traveler has been aware of the havoc caused by the clouds of volcanic ash from Eyjafjallajkull volcano. The closure of many European airports out of an extreme concern for safety, left many passengers stranded in both Europe and North America. Some friends of mine even left for an Eastward bound TA. We have yet to hear if they have been able to get a return flight home. Another friend traveled to England to visit her son, had to extend her two week trip to three weeks during the height of the travel cancellations. These kinds of delays can be a nightmare for working travelers on vacation who need to return home for their regular work duties, or for parents traveling who need to get home back home to their kids who have been in the care of other family members while they are gone. Also a frustration, I’m sure there were many North American travelers who missed their cruises because of weeks long flight cancellations.
This year has been one of long hours and little time off from work for my husband. In past years when he hasn’t felt such stress at work, the cruise vacation was simply get away. This year my husband is really looking forward to getting through his busy season and taking some much needed time off of work to relax and unwind. I had hoped to take another Trans-Atlantic cruise. These cruises are quite relaxing with many sea days, even though the long flight over to Europe can be rather exhausting on the front end of these cruise. When you add to that my concern about flight cancellations or delays, it has really pushed us towards the direction of booking a cruise that leaves out of North America.
Across the pond, many European cruisers, especially those in UK, may be feeling the same worries in reverse and may be looking at cruises that sail out of local ports and do not cross the Atlantic. There are several cruise lines that now sail virtually year round out of South Hampton, and other European ports, however, if you want to stay in your own back yard, your choices are limited depending on what season you wish to sail.
During the winter, North Americans have the most choices, as many ships that sail in Europe during the summer sail in the Caribbean during the winter. The Caribbean offers mostly calm seas and warm climates during the winter. Ships depart for the Caribbean out of Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, New Orleans, Mobile, Galveston, Port Canaveral, Baltimore, and even New York. Cruises out of California or Mexico to the Mexican Riviera or Hawaii are also popular options during the winter. NCL America even has one ship that sails Hawaii year round. However, as cruise lines transition to their summer schedules the options diminish. Due to the sometimes very active Hurricane Season in the Caribbean, only leave a few ships in the Caribbean during the summer, and move most of their ships to Alaska or Europe, with a few continuing the California/Mexico routs. Without the option of flying to Europe, summer cruisers have limited choices.
For Europeans, obviously the reverse is true. They have lots of Summer options, but are more limited during the winter months if they don’t wish to fly. Nearly every major US market cruise lines offer multiple ships, destination, and itineraries during the summer months in Europe and the Mediterranean, but only a handful of ships have a year round presence. Several cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Cunard and Fred Olsen offer year round cruises out of South Hampton. For those who can conveniently embark in Barcelona, NCL, Royal Caribbean, and MSC offer winter month cruises that don’t require long haul flights. MSC and Costa sail out of Rome/Civiteveccia during the winter months. MSC also offers winter month cruises departing out of Venice.
Another option that takes the Volcano out of the equation for North American travelers is a South American Cruise. These cruises still require a long haul flight, but the volcanic activity would not come into play. Royal Caribbean offers several options from 3-7 nights out of Brazil. Celebrity Expedition offers high end eco cruising to the Galapagos. Celebrity also offers 14 night cruises to South America that include places like Ushia, Beagle Channel, Antarctica, the Magellan Straights, and other interesting land marks on or near South America on their 14 night cruises that sail around the Southern tip of the continent. Princess, Royal Caribbean, MSC, Oceania, and Seabourn also offer similar extended South American itineraries.
I am not sure what the odds are that the volcanic ash will continue to cause flight cancellations. Even volcano experts say that the eruptions could continue for months. I’ve decided not to risk the continued eruptions and resulting flight delays and decided that our next vacation will, unfortunately not involve a Trans-Atlantic flight. We are considering a cruise in December out of Ft. Lauderdale. It looks like the dates and price may be just right. We’ll be sure to update our readers if we decide to book it.