Two cruise ships laden with British holidaymakers left stranded by international flight bans earlier this week are expected back in the UK later today.
Celebrity Eclipse will dock in Southampton this evening, following a voyage from Bilbao in Spain, while Thomson cruise ship Island Escape is expected in Cornwall after sailing from Madeira with 1,400 passengers.
Tens of thousands of British business and leisure travellers are still making their way home following a decision by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to close UK airspace for six days earlier this week, as the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in Iceland erupted.
A decision to reopen UK airspace was taken on Wednesday, with airlines now beginning the huge logistical task of returning services to normal.
Home Sweet Home
As the backlash from aviation bodies began, many weary travellers were simply happy to have arrived back in the UK.
“The events affecting air travel are completely unprecedented, and it is in times like these the global travel industry needs to pull together,” said Richard Fain, chairman of Celebrity Cruises and chief executive of its parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises.
“Collecting stranded British and Irish holidaymakers is a fitting first mission for new ship Celebrity Eclipse – what better way for a ship dedicated to the U.K. to mark her arrival?”
The new £500 million vessel carried 2,200 passengers on her voyage, and will now return to Southampton for her official launch.
Dan Hanrahan, chief executive of Celebrity Cruises, added: “Embarking just over 2,000 guests in Bilbao took a little longer than we anticipated, but we are still on track to get everyone into Southampton early on Friday evening.
“We are so grateful to our tour operator partners for working with us to get everyone to the ship on time.
“There have been some incredible logistics involved in the last 24 hours.”