The boutique expedition cruise operator, CruiseWest, finally called it a day over the weekend after months of financial struggle. The announcement came in the wake of a turbulent few weeks for the Seattle-based company, which saw passengers on its much-anticipated world cruise being offloaded from the Spirit of Oceanus in St. John, Newfoundland, mid-voyage, and the ship suddenly sold off.

I have to admit I read the news with some sadness. I had the pleasure of cruising with CruiseWest only once – an amazing 12-night voyage on Spirit of Oceanus in Japan last year – and to see a family-owned niche operator bite the dust after 64 years isn’t the kind of news anyone involved in the world of cruising wants to read about.

Undoubtedly the economic climate has been tough for the cruise industry since the onset off the GFC. For consumers, however, it’s been one big sale for months. From mass market to the luxury end of the scale in particular, deals abound as operators compete for fewer travellers, and for anyone contemplating their first cruise, there has never been a better time to consider spending your dollars on one.

CruiseWest’s demise, however, does raise a few questions about the safety of your cruise booking. And if a cruise line or travel agency, is there any chance of getting your money back?

The advice  is complex, as a lot depends on where you booked your cruise, and how you paid for it. If you have booked your cruise through a licensed travel agent in Australia, as long as they have made the booking with the cruise line and handed over the cash for it, your holiday could still be on schedule. If not, however, you may be eligible for compensation via Australia’s Travel Compensation Fund.

If you purchased third-party travel insurance for the trip, you may be able to lodge a claim for compensation through them. Same goes for anyone who’s paid for their trip by credit card; most issuing banks will be able to lodge a claim on your behalf.

The lesson learned by CruiseWest’s unfortunate demise is clear. When you are about to sign on the dotted line for that cruise to Europe you’ve always dreamt of, check that the travel agent or website is properly licensed, purchase travel insurance when you make the booking which has a facility to make a claim in the event of a company going under, and for extra insurance pay for the trip on a credit card. Happy cruising!