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The COVID-19 elephant in the room


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While there are a number of forums on Cruise Critic discussing the impact of COVID-19 on mainstream cruise lines, I have not yet seen anything about Hebridean Island Cruises. What we do know is that Hebridean has announced that all 2020 cruises that would normally begin in March have been cancelled until at least May 5, and likely longer. 

As someone with a deposit on a future Hebridean cruise scheduled for October, and one that will require a final payment in late May, I am wondering whether I should cancel before final payment is due or wait it out in the hopes that the October sailing will go forward and that Hebridean will still have the financial wherewith all to operate after a prolonged period of no business. 

Does anyone know what the cancellation policies are for Hebridean if they cancel our cruise? Would we get a future cruise credit, or a cash refund if the sailing does not take place? Any views on whether the ownership group will stick it out and support the cruise line in tough times?

Edited by commodoredave
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I was actually thinking about you when all of this happened.

 

i recommend sending them an email to ask about this issue.  A couple of years ago, my husband had to change jobs and we were unsure if he could join me on a cruise we booked.  We considered having me go alone or bringing my mother in law.  In the end, my husband was allowed to take leave, but I did find that Hebridean was very responsive when we asked about the scenarios.  
 

As for whether or not they’ll survive this... I sure hope so.  The line has passed through a couple of companies, though.  

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1 hour ago, knotheadusc said:

I was actually thinking about you when all of this happened.

 

i recommend sending them an email to ask about this issue.  A couple of years ago, my husband had to change jobs and we were unsure if he could join me on a cruise we booked.  We considered having me go alone or bringing my mother in law.  In the end, my husband was allowed to take leave, but I did find that Hebridean was very responsive when we asked about the scenarios.  
 

As for whether or not they’ll survive this... I sure hope so.  The line has passed through a couple of companies, though.  

Thanks Knotty. I'll send them an email, although it appears their office is temporarily closed and it may take some time to get a response. 

I think Hebridean would be wise to take a page from the major cruise lines and create a temporary policy for current and future bookings through the end of this year. I'd love to take the cruise, but with all the uncertainty about how the long the COVID outbreak will run, and whether it will return in the fall, I'm worried about risking so much money this far in advance. Normally I would purchase cancellation insurance, but I'm not sure that a known peril like the virus will be included in the coverage. Guess I will have to check that, too.

Hope you and hubby are safe and taking care in these unchartered waters.

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Yeah, we’re okay.  My husband was exposed to a few coworkers with COVID, but he was tested and it came back negative. So he’s working at home and we’re enjoying the togetherness.  Good thing we get along so well.  His colleagues are doing fine, too.

 

I don’t blame you for being nervous about the cruise.  I hope it will work out.  A year ago we were booking our 2019 cruise with Hebridean.  Amazing how things can change!

 

I think I read that Hebridean does have people manning emails.  

 

 

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I've sent the email to Hebridean, and also sent a similar email to our travel agent. While I know that Hebridean wants to operate our cruise this fall, my major concern is their financial ability to do so without any revenue for 3 to 4 months, plus reduced passenger loads when they do operate again. If they have business insurance to cover an interruption in their business, they may be okay. But Hebridean is a very small company that is privately owned without any public financial disclosure (that I can find). All of which makes me concerned about putting another $12,000 or so on the line 120 days before the cruise is scheduled to sail. And I'm not sure that travel cancellation insurance would cover this -- some insurance companies are now claiming the COVID-19 issue triggers the Force Majeur clause  that means they don't have to pay. I would really appreciate some kind of assurance or policy change from Hebridean.

Edited by commodoredave
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Good news.

I heard back from Hebridean (see letter below) and they explained that any money paid to them is protected and refundable if they don't remain financially solvent. So we have decided to proceed with paying the final balance.

FINAL BALANCE PAYMENTS FOR HEBRIDEAN PRINCESS CRUISES

Dear Guest

Due to the worldwide situation with the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and government restrictions which have now been imposed, we appreciate that deciding whether to pay your final balance on the due date may be a little concerning.

However, I should like to reassure you that all payments made to Hebridean Island Cruises are protected; if your departure is from the UK, by our ABTA bond or if you are flying, under our ATOL license issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Therefore, in the unlikely event of our failure, 100% of the monies you have paid to us are fully protected, providing you with peace of mind.

By making your final payment on time indicates that you are adhering to our terms and conditions of business, meaning that you are fully financially protected as outlined above. Regrettably, not adhering to the payment terms could result in your booking being cancelled, therefore forfeiting the deposit you have paid and meaning that you could be liable for further cancellation fees.

If for any reason your cruise is cancelled, we will offer you a cruise at the same or better value departing later this year or in 2021 or 2022.

As government advice currently stands, we have every intention in operating your cruise.

Hebridean Princess started cruising in 1989 and since then has gained a reputation for the very best in service and high standards. 72% of guests who now sail with Hebridean have travelled with us at least once previously and it is this loyalty which ensures the continued success of Hebridean Princess. For this loyalty and support, we thank you.

Should you have any queries or concerns regarding your payment, please do get in touch - at reservations@hebridean.co.uk or call us on 01756 704704 for a choice of telephone dialling options. We are committed to providing you with the very best of service during this time.

Thank you for your understanding.

Yours sincerely

Ken Charleson

Managing Director

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  • 1 month later...

So with 10 days to go until our final balance of GBP 9,000 is due for payment with Hebridean Island Cruises for our cruise in late September, I am again having second thoughts. 

My major concern with making a very large non-refundable final payment 4 months before our cruise departs is that things might happen beyond our control in the interim to prevent us from going, yet we would not be eligible for a refund.

For example, might our flights be cancelled (as they were for our upcoming European river cruise)?; might borders for non-essential travel be closed between countries that I will be flying to or through (as happened with our river cruise) to get to the departure point for the cruise?; will government no-travel advisories still be in effect that will invalidate my travel health insurance or make it impossible to obtain?; might there be a second wave of the pandemic in the fall when we are scheduled to sail that would make travel unsafe?; etc. And I'm not confident that we could buy trip cancellation insurance that would cover most of these reasons, and at a reasonable cost.

While most cruise companies are making allowances for these possibilities with more flexible cancellation policies, Hebridean has not changed anything. If their ship sails without us because of things beyond our control, it does't appear it will be of any consequence to Hebridean.  They would just consider it a "disinclination to travel" on our part and give us no refund or voucher for a future cruise.

I could be wrong, but it is my perception that during these undertain times that most other cruise lines have instituted much more customer friendly policies than Hebridean Island Cruises.

Any thoughts?

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Well... the only other cruise line I follow with any regularity is SeaDream Yacht Club.  And people on SeaDream's board seem to be steaming mad about the way they're being treated regarding refunds.  At least Hebridean has proactively addressed the issue by sending you a letter.  SeaDream, which is a line I've sailed on three times and loved, apparently isn't even answering their phones.  A lot of people are really pissed.

 

I suspect it's a lot harder for the small cruise lines like SeaDream and Hebridean to keep things going in a situation like this, so they're not going to be as forthcoming, flexible, or generous with refunds.  Since 2012, I've so far sailed on five Hebridean cruises.  During that time, the ship has changed hands at least once.  

 

Anyway... I don't blame you at all for being nervous about this.  I would be, too.  I'm glad we sailed last year because I'm afraid this pandemic could sink a lot of wonderful small cruise lines.

 

Things are slowly opening up in Europe, though, so the cruise could conceivably happen.  I'm sure a lot depends on how bad the "second wave" of COVID-19 is.

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6 hours ago, knotheadusc said:

Well... the only other cruise line I follow with any regularity is SeaDream Yacht Club.  And people on SeaDream's board seem to be steaming mad about the way they're being treated regarding refunds.  At least Hebridean has proactively addressed the issue by sending you a letter.  SeaDream, which is a line I've sailed on three times and loved, apparently isn't even answering their phones.  A lot of people are really pissed.

 

I suspect it's a lot harder for the small cruise lines like SeaDream and Hebridean to keep things going in a situation like this, so they're not going to be as forthcoming, flexible, or generous with refunds.  Since 2012, I've so far sailed on five Hebridean cruises.  During that time, the ship has changed hands at least once.  

 

Anyway... I don't blame you at all for being nervous about this.  I would be, too.  I'm glad we sailed last year because I'm afraid this pandemic could sink a lot of wonderful small cruise lines.

 

Things are slowly opening up in Europe, though, so the cruise could conceivably happen.  I'm sure a lot depends on how bad the "second wave" of COVID-19 is.

 

I've cut and pasted below what I think is a very pro-consumer booking policy from Silversea (other cruise lines have implemented similar policies).

Silversea is sending a strong signal that it understands the concerns of the travelling public, and will put the interests of consumers above its own. As a result, I have made my final payment for a Silversea cruise next year, and will continue to book future cruises with them.

In contrast, Hebridean is sending a signal that it is putting its own interests above that of consumers with its current cancellation policy.  I understand that small cruise lines have less financial flexibility with which to operate, but I sincerely believe that the current Hebridean policy will result in more cancellations, fewer future bookings,  less customer loyalty, and greater financial difficulty. If there ever was a time for a cruise line to show it cares about its customers, now is the time, especially if they want to survive for the longer term.

 

SILVERSEA CRUISES INTRODUCES NEW MEASURES TO OFFER UNPRECEDENTED FLEXIBILITY TO TRAVELERS

 

(Miami, FL -- April 20, 2020) Silversea Cruises today introduces new measures to offer unprecedented flexibility to travelers, enabling them to start planning future trips by taking away the uncertainties of today.

 

REDUCED DEPOSIT & $1,000 ONBOARD SPENDING CREDIT FOR EVERY BOOKING UNTIL JUNE 30TH

 

Silversea has reduced its deposit requirement to USD 1,000 / CAD 1,250 / BPS 750 / EUR 900 / AUD 1,500 per suite for any new booking made before June 30, 2020. Guests who redeem this offer will also receive USD 1,000 Onboard Spending Credit per suite. The reduced deposit offer applies to all Silversea voyages with the exception of full World Cruises and Grand Voyages. Guests in possession of Future Cruise Credit can also use their credit to take advantage of the offer.

 

EXPANSION OF ‘CRUISE WITH CONFIDENCE’ PROGRAM

 

To provide travelers with peace of mind when planning their cruise, Silversea is extending the previously announced ‘Cruise with Confidence’ cancellation program to all voyages currently scheduled to depart before December 31, 2020. Under the policy, guests may cancel their cruise for any reason up to 48 hours prior to sailing and receive a 100% Future Cruise Credit for the amount paid, valid for two years from the date of issue. When guests opt for Future Cruise Credit and have paid in full, the travel agent's commission is protected for both the cancelled booking and the future reservation on which the correlating Future Cruise Credit is applied.

 

"Our new reduced deposit requirement and expanded Cruise with Confidence program are designed to address the uncertainty that our guests may be feeling these days, while providing additional tools for our valued travel partners that will help boost their business during this difficult period," says Mark Conroy, Silversea's Managing Director for the Americas.

 

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Well, as I mentioned upthread, many of the other cruise lines have more money and flexibility.  I think Silversea was purchased by Royal Caribbean, right?  It could be Hebridean simply doesn’t have the capital to do what Silversea is doing.
 

I don’t disagree that the way this situation is being handled right now is going to leave an impression with people and potentially harm business.  Maybe you should send Hebridean a letter with your comments about how they’re doing things.

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On 5/20/2020 at 11:52 PM, knotheadusc said:

Well, as I mentioned upthread, many of the other cruise lines have more money and flexibility.  I think Silversea was purchased by Royal Caribbean, right?  It could be Hebridean simply doesn’t have the capital to do what Silversea is doing.
 

I don’t disagree that the way this situation is being handled right now is going to leave an impression with people and potentially harm business.  Maybe you should send Hebridean a letter with your comments about how they’re doing things.

I've sent 2 email letters to Hebridean about this subject last week. The response in part was:

"Thank you for your email below and please accept my apologies for the delayed response. 

I have forwarded your comments to our Managing Director, although we are aware of the decisions being made by most of the large cruise companies, which is very much in line with the offer Hebridean is making to guests who have had their cruises cancelled to date."

Polite, but shows a total lack of awareness of what many other cruise lines are offering wth respect to cancellation and future booking policies. Hebridean may not have to be as generous as larger cruise lines, but it does need to step up its game and develop a policy that is more consumer friendly that their current policy.

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I just wonder how many people will either make a final payment for a cruise they booked before the outbreak of COVID-19, or make a new booking now when there is so much uncertainty. The only bookings I've kept or made are with cruise lines like Silversea who will allow me to cancel and get a FCC.   

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Hebridean has stepped up and allowed me to apply my non-refundable deposit to a future cruise. I am very impressed with their consumer-friendly decision. As a result, we will be rebooking for next year, and will continue to book more cruises with them. All's well that ends well!!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm another Hebridean Princess cruiser who is U.S. based, and was also booked for an October 2020 cruise.  I e-mailed them about my concerns, which were very similar to commodoredave's, and got a reply in two days from Jonathan Moffatt, their Sales & Marketing Manager.  He was kind and professional at the same time,  and had no problem with moving our deposit to a 2021 departure.  It's an itinerary in which we've always been interested (Island Kingdoms of the Vikings), so we're very happy with how everything turned out.  The line is so special, unique in my experience, and I very much hope they're able to come through this with only minimal changes.

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8 hours ago, Mancora Girl said:

I'm another Hebridean Princess cruiser who is U.S. based, and was also booked for an October 2020 cruise.  I e-mailed them about my concerns, which were very similar to commodoredave's, and got a reply in two days from Jonathan Moffatt, their Sales & Marketing Manager.  He was kind and professional at the same time,  and had no problem with moving our deposit to a 2021 departure.  It's an itinerary in which we've always been interested (Island Kingdoms of the Vikings), so we're very happy with how everything turned out.  The line is so special, unique in my experience, and I very much hope they're able to come through this with only minimal changes.

 

Johnathan Moffatt is awesome!  I have had a lot of dealings with him and he's always been the consummate professional.  One of the reasons I keep going back to Hebridean is because their office staff is as excellent as the ship's crew is.  I'm so glad to hear about how well they're handling this mess!  

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14 hours ago, knotheadusc said:

 

Johnathan Moffatt is awesome!  I have had a lot of dealings with him and he's always been the consummate professional.  One of the reasons I keep going back to Hebridean is because their office staff is as excellent as the ship's crew is.  I'm so glad to hear about how well they're handling this mess!  

Mancora Girl, glad to hear that Hebridean has resolved your situation in a positive fashion. I agree with Knotty. The staff at Hebridean are pretty awesome! And we are all hoping they come through this pandemic in reasonable shape and continue to offer cruises for many years to come.

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On 6/23/2020 at 3:02 PM, Mancora Girl said:

According to Jonathan, they will be online around June 30/July 1.  Fingers crossed they go as planned!

I was told by my travel agent that the 2021 itineraries will be almost the same as 2020 because most will not have been done. But 2022 itinerary will also be available soon, and it will be different.

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