During dry dock in Bremerhaven, Germany, significant issues have been uncovered that will prohibit Ambience, the former Regal Princess, now sailing for Ambassador Cruise Line, from returning to service soon.
The announcement comes ahead of a busy season of sailings, with thousands of guests booked onboard the vessel. With that in mind, Ambassador Cruise Line has taken the controversial decision to swap itineraries between Ambience and its other cruise ship, Ambition.
Major Maintenance Needed for Ambassador Cruise Ship Ambience
Ambassador Cruise Line informed guests and travel agents on December 7, 2023, that Ambience will be out of service through early January. Ambience requires extended maintenance due to unexpected damage found on the vessel’s prop shafts during dry dock in Bremerhaven, Northern Germany.
The maintenance work, which involves repairing propeller shafts and stern bearings damaged by metal grinding, is crucial to prevent potential environmental risks. Both propeller shafts and the bearings will be transported by sea to Denmark where they will be repaired by a specialist company.
Christian Verhounig, Chief Executive Officer for Ambassador Cruise Line: “The two propeller shafts (each 20m long weighing over 30 tonnes each), together with their bearings have been transported by sea to a specialist metal repair shop in Denmark.”
Ambience had been in dry dock for regularly scheduled maintenance, however, this will be taking much longer than initially anticipated.
“Regrettably, we were informed yesterday that the additional maintenance works will not be concluded in time to operate our itineraries onboard Ambience as scheduled, with the ship only able to return to the UK in early January ahead of Ambience’s Grand Round The World Cruise.”
The unplanned maintenance has far-reaching consequences for the cruise lines, which is forced to cancel several cruises scheduled to set sail onboard Ambience, and also affects cruises booked onboard the cruise line’s second cruise ship, Ambition.
Significant Impact on Scheduled Cruises
The extended maintenance on the Ambience has necessitated the cancellation and alteration of several cruises planned for December. The cruise line stated that Ambition will replace the Ambience for these voyages, affecting 6,600 guests booked onboard Ambience, and a further 800 guests booked onboard Ambition.
Verhounig said: “We have taken the difficult decision to switch Ambition and Ambience’s itineraries over the next month. With over 6,600 guests due to be on board Ambience in December and 800 booked on Ambition, it made operational sense to cancel the one sailing over this period on Ambition than all Ambience’s planned itineraries, which limits the impact on most guests with forward bookings.”
Ambition is the former AIDAmira, which was sold to Ambassador Cruise Line in 2022. The 48,200 gross tons cruise ship first sailed as Mistral for Festival Cruises in 1999, then as Grand Mistral with Ibero Cruises, and as Costa neoRiviera with Costa Cruises.
December cruises that have been impacted include the December 10 sailing, a German Christmas Markets cruise that will now sail on Ambition. This cruise will be reduced from 5 nights to 4 and Hamburg is being replaced by Antwerp.
The December 17 cruise, a Festive Market Getaway sailing on December 17 onboard Ambience, will now be sailing on Ambition. Further, Ambience‘s Christmas & New Year Voyage scheduled for December 21 will now take place on Ambition.
The cruise duration has been extended from 16 to 17 nights and will return to Tilbury on January 7, 2024, instead of January 6, 2024. The itinerary will include a Rotterdam drop-off for guests on January 6. This is the second year in a row where guests have been surprised by cruise cancellations around the Christmas period. At the time, this was due to issues found during an inspection of the lifeboat stations onboard.
No Mention Of Compensation for Cancelled Cruises
To make the changes possible, Ambassador Cruise Line has cancelled Ambition‘s West Indies cruise scheduled to set sail on December 11, 2024.
“It is never an easy decision to change or cancel any Ambassador sailing, particularly at this time of year, and I would personally like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. I fully understand that an apology does not cover what many of you may be feeling right now,” said Verhounig.
If the maintenance and repairs can be completed without further delays, Ambience is expected to return to the UK in early January, in time for its Grand Round The World Cruise.
Ambassador Cruise Line did not make any mention of compensation it would be offering guests booked on one of the cancelled or rescheduled cruises. Guests will be receiving more news about the options available to them through email, according to the cruise line.