For Aussie couple Angela and Sal Capri, their upcoming holiday to Antarctica in December was not only going to be a celebration for Sal’s 60th birthday, but also a bucket-list ‘once in a lifetime trip’.
But when Angela joked to her husband last Tuesday night that they hadn’t received their emailed itinerary from Canadian Cruise Line One Ocean and she “hope(d) they haven’t gone belly-up!” She wasn’t far from the truth.
One Ocean released emails to passengers directly affected by the news last night, informing them that their worst fears were confirmed and the November 21st trip was cancelled.
And tellingly, they were told to talk to their insurance company about compensation – suggesting none would be forthcoming from the line itself.
In a formal letter to passengers, One Ocean’s Andrew Prossin sates “We regret to inform you that we are unable to operate our Nov 21, 2019 voyage as planned.
“Our recent efforts at restructuring our business have been going well and we are in advanced discussions now with a qualified potential partner to rebuild our business. However, some facets of the restructuring have created complications that will keep us from operating your voyage. Again, please accept our apologies.
“On completion of our restructuring, we will be in touch regarding any compensation possibilities. In the meantime, we encourage you to contact your insurance provider,” Mr Prossin said.
Sadly, this information now confirms that the Capri’s have also almost certainly lost the $40,000 it cost them to book their trip.
The Capri family’s story is just one of many from Australian passengers who are going to be left out of pocket if One Ocean can’t recover costs and repay their pre-paid guests. If One Ocean does claim bankruptcy, or insolvency, the Capri’s will still only be able to claim roughly $1,000 from their insurance company, under current insurance policies.
The Cruise to Antarctica, departing Chile isn’t due to leave until the 19th of December, so for now, The Capri’s are weighing up their options.
“We are also booked for a Christmas safari to Patagonia and we are due to go to Easter Island for New Years Eve, all as part of this one trip” Mrs Capri said.
“So right now, we are living in limbo, waiting to see if the Cruise Line sends us any information. We have already lost $40,000 on this booking – so I don’t want to book another trip and say ‘we spent $80,000 getting to Antarctica’,” Mrs Capri added.
“I’ve noticed on Facebook that the other Aussies who are also affected are starting to lose it.
“I think the impact is going to be hard for everyone, but it’s going to be especially hard for some. Some people have taken loans to go on this trip.”
Another Aussie, Adam Hammond, had been employed by One Ocean as a Safety Officer / Assistant Expedition Leader and recently resigned from his post.
He claims he reported the company to a number of bodies.
He alleged: “What I saw with respect to staff treatment, financing, lack of maintenance, safety, and lack of appropriate staff qualifications led me to leave the ship a month early and provide a formal report to both the US Coast Guard and Transport Canada.”
Mr Hammond says he felt seriously concerned for the safety of passengers travelling with One Ocean.
“I assured them (US Coast Guard and Transport Canada) that things would go wrong and only four weeks later one of their ships ran aground in the high Canadian Arctic. Had it not been for the pure luck of that occurring in broad daylight and in a perfectly calm sea state, many people might have died.”
Mr Hammond says of One Ocean: “They were using their own staff as a bank. I was putting the fuel for the zodiac on my own credit card.
“They’re known as a good introduction to the industry for staff. They don’t pay well or on time, but they don’t insist on qualifications.
Mr Hammond also said: “Hundreds of people are anywhere from $60 to $100,000 out of pocket.”
So far, The One Ocean Cruise Line has distributed a public announcement via social media stating that it is in a “difficult period of restructuring” as it goes through an “extremely challenging period of time.”
According to Managing Director Andrew Prossin, the situation arose after two of its vessels were withdrawn by the ships’ Russian owners earlier this year
“The withdrawal of these ships was an unexpected and destabilising event,” Mr Prossin wrote in a post on One Ocean Expeditions’ Facebook page. The two ships, Akademik Ioffe and Akademik Sergey Vavilov, were chartered by One Ocean Expeditions through a deal with Russia’s Academy of Sciences’ PP Shirshov Institute of Oceanology.
According to One Ocean Expeditions, both ships were the victims of a “sudden withdrawal” by their Russian owners, which has resulted in ongoing legal action by One Ocean Expeditions.
The withdrawal has left guests and travel advisors in the dark as sailings were canceled, including one to Antarctica that left up to 140 guests stranded in Argentina last month, and another that was supposed to host a team of students from a West Vancouver Secondary School.
Guests and advisors with sailings booked in the future have written on social media that the company still hasn’t informed them of the status of their sailings or whether or not they will be refunded for cancelled sailings.
The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, the organisation of more than 100 member companies that is “dedicated to facilitating appropriate, safe and environmentally sound private-sector travel to the Antarctic,” has reportedly suspended One Ocean Expeditions’ membership in the organisation after non-payment of its dues and fees on Nov. 1. One Ocean Expeditions had been a member of the Association for more than a decade.
One Ocean Expeditions did not respond to comment as requested from Cruise Passenger Magazine.