Up-market tour operator Abercrombie & Kent has cancelled a 15-day Antarctic cruise due to sail tomorrow because repairs and safety tests are being carried out on the chartered ship, Compagnie du Ponant’s Le Boreal.
It is understood that technicians had detected signs of wear on some parts – although what exactly was affected has not been disclosed.
Ponant said that if the vessel had been sailing anywhere else in the world, the work could have been carried out during the cruise, but that this would not have been possible in remote Antarctic waters.
Abercrombie & Kent informed passengers of the cancellation before the weekend and is offering a full refund, reimbursement of airfares, and a 10 per cent discount on a future cruise. A spokesperson said “We regret the disappointment, but safety is our first priority.
“We were able to contact most passengers before they flew to Buenos Aires. Some had already left, in which case we provided them with alternative travel arrangements to visit Iguassu Falls.”
UK fares for a similar cruise in December, including return flights and tours of Buenos Aires, as well as the voyage from Ushuaia to Antarctica, started at almost £8,000 per passenger.
Writing on the company’s website on Christmas Eve, travel consultant Melissa Hookway said: “We have now been sailing onwards towards South Georgia for two days, and should arrive around lunchtime today for a landing in the afternoon. In the meantime we have had a vast amount of lectures, briefings, films, and never a dull moment.
“Photo shots of sea birds following in our wake have been challenging from the boat that is rolling around (but very smooth considering the sea conditions on occasion) and winds
“I will no doubt be singing a few carols in the little wooden church on South Georgia on Christmas Day, and will later raise a toast to friends, family and colleagues back home.”
Ponant’s chief commercial officer, Terri Hass, said: “It is very unfortunate that the next sailing had to be canceled, particularly since it was completely booked. We felt we had to make that difficult decision as a precautionary measure and in the interest of our guests’ safety.”
The ship was launched in May 2010. It is expected that the January 19 sailing will depart as scheduled.