Posted by: cruise2 | 7 February, 2011

Bad Luck Year For Polar Cruise Ships

Courtesy of Mark Tré – "The Cruise Examiner" at Cybercruises.com

For some expedition cruise ship operators, this has been a particularly bad year. First, in the Canadian Arctic, Clipper Adventurer ran aground on August 27 while on charter to Adventure Canada and then her near sister ship Lyubov Orlova, which had just completed her season for Cruise North Expeditions, was arrested in St John’s, Newfoundland in September.

And if that were not bad enough, so far in this Antarctic season, three more ships have got themselves into trouble. First, Clelia II was hit by a large wave on December 9 and was out of service until December 26, then Le Boréal had to cancel her January 4 voyage, an Abercrombie & Kent charter, because of mechanical problems and last week  Polar Star hit an uncharted rock, damaging her outer hull while sailing through the Matha Strait, and has had to cancel her February 6 voyage.

Polar Star‘s 80 passengers were returned from Antarctica to Ushuaia last week on board ships of other operators. The largest, number, 42, were brought back by the Marina Svetaeva, operated by One Ocean Expeditions of Vancouver. Twenty more were transferred to Ushuaia of Ushuaia-based Antarpply Expeditions. And the last eight passengers were brought back by Expedition, operated by Toronto-based GAP Adventures. Among these passengers were thirty-two Americans, fourteen Brits, nine Canadians and eight Australians.

There have been years when one or two or even three ships have had problems, but not a year recently when five have lost voyages. The silver lining here is that operators such as One Ocean, GAP and Antarpply have gained a little more business from the three ships affected, all of which have had to cancel voyages at very short notice. With passengers either already in Ushuaia or en route, the other operators have been able to step into the gap, so to speak, several benefiting more than once.

Of the above, meanwhile,  Lyubov Orlova has reportedly now been sold to Norwegian owners and Clipper Adventurer has been replaced in the Quark fleet by Sea Spirit, formerly the troubled Cruise West’s Spirit of Oceanus, which has been chartered from International Shipping Partners, who also manage a number of Quark’s own ships.

Sea Spirit is now working the 2010/11 Antarctic season out and will return for 2011/12, after which she will again be on the market for charter. Another silver lining here is that Sea Spirit has brought a much more luxurious level of ship and accommodation to the Quark fleet, who have primarily used chartered Russian and Ukrainian tonnage in the past. Quark is now part of the TUI Group, which also includes Hapag-Lloyd Cruise, Thomson Cruises and TUI Cruises, the latter being a joint venture with Royal Caribbean.

One thing that is notable in looking at these various companies is how many of them are now based in Canada, six in all. Toronto now boasts four expedition cruise operators – owners GAP Adventures and Quark Expeditions and charter operators Adventure Canada and Cruise North Expeditions. Halifax meanwhile has Polar Star Expeditions while Vancouver has its own One Ocean Expeditions.

One Ocean Expeditions has also recently announced that it will be returning to using the Akademik Ioffe in 2012.

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