Cruise West Closes Shop: ‘The End Of A Remarkable Company’

Sad to see Cruise West go. I was on this cruise in 2006 with those pictured. Cruise West specialized in small ship experiences and particularly up-close-and-personal encounters with fellow travelers and the regions where Cruise West’s ships sailed. A loss for the industry, no doubt.

Letter from Richard West

I am so very sorry to report the closure of Cruise West, the largest US flag cruise line. After 64 years our family business has succumbed to the global economy. We are heartbroken that we are going to be disappointing so many wonderful travel partners and guests, many of whom have become part of our extended family over the years. We did everything we could – put everything we had into the business to make it through the Alaska season, but we have reached the end of the road. Things are now out of our hands.

Things went very bad, very fast. Just three weeks ago we were notified by the Seattle Private Equity firm with whom we had been working for over two months, that they could not proceed. In July my wife and I took every last cent from out of our home equity to put into the company to keep going, in the hopes of finalizing a deal with this group. We at least made it through the Alaska season, with the last ship returning to Seattle last Tueday.

In just these past couple of weeks, we sold our flagship Spirit of Oceanus, the proceeds going to our credit card processor to cover refunds. Other lenders sold their note which included mortgages on three of our ships to outside investors. The remaining four ships have been surrendered to their lender.

It is the end of a remarkable company, with remarkable people creating unforgettable memories for our guests.

Warm wishes – Dick and Leslie West
Richard G. West | Chairman, Managing Director

Official Press Release

Cruise West Ceases Operations

SEATTLE, WA (September 17, 2010) – Cruise West today announced that they will cease operations on Saturday, September 18th. For the last year, Cruise West has aggressively pursued a number of options with interested parties to maintain operations, including investment, selling assets, and selling the company. In part because of the most recent dip in the markets and the continued lack of economic confidence, these options have not come to fruition.

“I have never given up hope that we might be able to find a way to survive by working with the various interested parties. I am absolutely heartbroken that this family legacy has come to end,” shared Dick West, Cruise West’s Chairman and Managing Director. “We have a product that appeals to the type of traveler who wants to experience the destination, not the inside of a ship. We have a passionate following of repeat guests and I am particularly distressed that our most loyal guests who have booked with us will now not be able to travel. We have done absolutely everything to maintain operations, but with limited resources and the current tight financial market, we simply cannot continue.”

With the exception of the September 22 Danube Cruise, Cruise West has canceled all future cruises in 2010 and beyond and Cruise West has taken steps to notify booked guests via phone, email, and through media outlets. “It is with a heavy heart that we close our doors, knowing that guests, travel agents, and partners will not receive the personal attention that they have grown to expect from us,” said Dick West.

“I want to extend my most sincere thanks to our loyal employees, many of which have been here for decades. I am devastated that, though they have given abundantly of their time and energy, we will be unable to continue delivering memorable experiences.” continued Dick West. ” Last week, Cruise West commenced layoffs of their staff, with a very small staff staying on to help with shutdown efforts.

Our Galapagos partner, Canodros, operator of the Galapagos Explorer II, is working with us to provide an alternate program to our guests already booked. Guests who have booked our Galapagos program for dates in 2011 – may contact the operator by e-mail – [email protected]

For booked guests who have not yet traveled, Cruise West recommends the following steps:

  1. If third-party travel insurance was obtained, a claim should be placed immediately with the insurer.
  2. If payment was made by credit card, a claim should be placed immediately with the card issuer.
  3. If the payment was made by cash or check, and you have no travel insurance, and the cruise departs from a U.S. port, you may file a claim with Cruise Claims c/o Wells Fargo Disability Management, PO Box 1567, Abingdon, Virginia 24212; phone: 877-371-9700, extension 6059; faxed to: 276-676-0152; or sent as an e-mail attachment to: [email protected]. The e-mail should specify the claim is for cruise fare reimbursement. 2301 5th Avenue, Suite 401 Seattle, WA 98121 www.cruisewest.com
  4. If the payment was made by cash or check, and you have no travel insurance, and the cruise departs from a foreign, non-U.S. port you may file a claim with USTOA, visit their web site – www.ustoa.com.

For travel partners with booked guests, Cruise West recommends that you contact your clients and relay the information above regarding claims.

About Cruise West
Cruise West believes that small is beautiful. Small-ship explorations allow up-close and personal experiences unmatched by the traditional larger cruise lines. For nearly 64 years, Cruise West has provided authentic travel experiences. Cruise West ceased operations September 18, 2010.

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