The cruise ship Mein Schiff 3 from TUI Cruises has effectively “rescued” stranded travelers from Spitsbergen (Svalbard), a popular tourist destination in the Arctic archipelago north of the Scandinavian mainland and belonging to Norway.
Due to an ongoing pilots’ strike at Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), travelers have been unable to secure return flights from the island, and instead have booked last-minute passage on Mein Schiff 3.
According to local media reports, the Scandinavian Airlines’ pilot strike began July 3, with roughly 50% of local flights canceled each day due to lack of available pilots. Because of the dramatically lower number of flights and size limits on aircraft, many travelers have been unable to rebook flights successfully.
A shore tour company that partners with the German cruise line TUI Cruises made the line aware of the situation, and now the cruise line is stepping in to assist.
TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3 is currently sailing a 14-night roundtrip itinerary from Bremerhaven, Germany, which includes a stop in Longyearbyen, the only incorporated area of Spitsbergen and the largest settlement on the island.
The cruise ship visited Longyearbyen on Sunday, July 10, and took aboard an additional 120 passengers who otherwise would have no convenient way to return to the European mainland. The ship was not sailing at full capacity, and therefore was able to sell the remaining open cabins to interested travelers.
Passengers have the option to debark the ship at any of the three remaining ports of call in Norway – Honningsvag, Tromso, or Alesund – or else remain onboard until the ship reaches Bremerhaven on Sunday, July 17.
The new cruise guests are travelers from a variety of countries, including Germany, Belgium, Denmark, France, Australia, and more, and they will now be able to get closer to home thanks to the intervention of the cruise line.
Costs of the unexpected cruise ship travel are in dispute, and while passengers may be required to pay up front, reimbursement is possible from the airline depending on how the current strike issues may be settled and what travelers’ rights are in the situation, as well as what expenses any applicable travel insurance policies may cover.
While the 99,526-gross-ton Mein Schiff 3 is the largest vessel to be offering this unconventional solution to stranded travelers, it is possible that other expedition ships or cruise ships in the area may make similar arrangements. Not only can this assist otherwise stranded travelers, but can also help cruise lines fill unsold cabins.
Mein Schiff 3, which entered service for TUI Cruises in 2014, has a capacity of 2,500 passengers, with 1,000 international crew members onboard to provide service.
Rescuing Stranded Travelers
This is not the first time a cruise ship has aided stranded travelers. At the end of May, Carnival Cruise Line assisted a stranded family in Aruba that was unable to make other travel arrangements when their autistic son was denied flight travel because of a sensory episode.
Cruise ships also often aid refugees at sea either by taking them aboard the ship if their own vessel is damaged or the situation is unsafe, or offering supplies and fuel if necessary for them to continue their own travel.
Cruise ships have also helped stranded travelers after emergency situations, such as when a hurricane may make flight travel impossible or if emergency accommodations may be necessary.
When Carnival Freedom‘s funnel was damaged by fire in May in Grand Turk, for example, another ship – Carnival Conquest – was dispatched to help the passengers return home safely.