Celebrity Eclipse, the new £500 million luxury cruise ship from Celebrity Cruises, has returned to her home port in Southampton from Bilbao, Spain, where she picked up approximately 2,200 stranded holidaymakers caught up by the recent travel disruption caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland.
The voyage replaced the planned two-day launch celebration cruise for VIPs originally scheduled to depart on Thursday (April 22). Instead, Celebrity Cruises worked with tour operators Thomson, First Choice, Thomas Cook, Travel Counsellors and the Co-operative Travel Trading Group to bring back as many of their customers as possible.
Celebrity Eclipse sailed from Bilbao, Spain on Tuesday 22 April 2010 carrying over 2,000 stranded British holidaymakers. The ship had been due in Southampton on Tuesday to showcase to the UK and Irish travel trade and media. Whilst these are unprecedented circumstances, this is a Herculean effort to get stranded people home and a great way to demonstrate our commitment to the UK market.
Thomas Cook group chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa said the Celebrity Eclipse rescue mission was a great example of how the UK industry has worked in partnership to get people home.
“We are enormously grateful to Celebrity Cruises for helping us in our efforts to get Thomas Cook customers back home safely. Our teams in the UK and abroad have been working around the clock to repatriate our customers as quickly as possible and this is another great example of how we have worked with our travel partners to achieve this. The UK travel industry and I’m sure the customers who travelled home on her will always remember the arrival of Celebrity Eclipse into service and this unique voyage.” He said.
In addition to working with the tour operators, the cruiseline made 50 cabins available to Britons identified as having to urgently return to the UK. These travellers were organised with help from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s crisis team in Madrid.
Jo Rzymowska, Associate Vice President & General Manager, UK & Ireland Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises & Azamara Club Cruises said:
“We are absolutely delighted to have worked with our travel partners during these unprecedented times. And we are looking forward to hosting or trade partners on Celebrity Eclipse this weekend.”
Launch plans for Celebrity Eclipse will now continue as planned with her due to be named in Southampton by Godmother Emma Pontin, ocean-racing yachtswoman and breast cancer survivor, on 24 April 2010. The naming celebration will coincide with a charity power walk in aid of the breast cancer charity Walk the Walk – the Celebrity SunWalk will see men and women in decorated bras walking a 5km and 10km route through Southampton finishing in front of the new ship to raise awareness, and money.
Celebrity Eclipse is the first of Celebrity Cruises’ ships to be based out of Southampton and will welcome its first paying guests on 26 April 2010 before offering cruises through the summer to the Mediterranean and Canary Islands.