Royal Caribbean International has contacted guests about modifications to a Hawaii cruise sailing aboard Ovation of the Seas, but reaction was so overwhelmingly negative that the cruise line changed its original plan and is now offering another option to booked guests.

The impacted cruise is the October 6, 2023 departure, which was originally planned to be a 9-night Hawaiian sailing from Vancouver to Honolulu.

Due to the overwhelming wildfires on Maui that have decimated the historic town of Lahaina, a popular cruise port, Royal Caribbean International contacted guests about the October 6, 2023 sailing of Ovation of the Seas and how the itinerary was modified.

The cruise, departing from Vancouver, British Columbia at the end of the Alaska sailing season, was originally to have called on Lahaina for an overnight visit on October 12-13. This would have been the only port visit in Hawaii before the ship reached Honolulu on October 15 for debarkation.

Photo Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock

Royal Caribbean International reached out to guests to alert them to an itinerary modification. “Due to the devastating wildfires in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, we’ll now visit Victoria, British Columbia instead. Additionally, we’ve added a visit to Seattle, Washington,” the email read.

The itinerary also added a day of scenic cruising along Hawaii’s beautiful Napali Coast of Kauai, but without any port visit. Instead, after leaving the Pacific Northwest, there would be no further ports of call until reaching Honolulu for debarkation.

While cruise travelers are sympathetic to the situation in Hawaii, changing what was to have been a 9-night Hawaiian cruise into a Pacific Northwest cruise that then debarks in Hawaii – with no opportunity to explore any of the beautiful destinations in the islands – was disappointing to many travelers.

No option for any refund or rebooking was initially offered to travelers.

After immediate outcry from guests, Royal Caribbean has now added the offer of a refund for cancelling the sailing, as well as further explaining the difficulties of rescheduling the 168,666-gross ton, Quantum-class Ovation of the Seas, one of the twenty largest cruise ships in the world.

“We’ve looked closely at other Hawaiian ports, but due to its size, Ovation only had 2 other options in Hawaii, which were not available for many reasons – including the port being already occupied and even the Ironman triathlon blocking ocean access,” the second email explained.

Ovation of the Seas Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Galactic Droids / Shutterstock)

As other cruise lines are similarly working to reschedule ports of call in Hawaii at this time, available berths are quickly filling and it is not possible to accommodate every displaced ship at multiple destinations.

“Nonetheless, we know this isn’t how you planned your cruise to go. So, we’re providing the option to cancel your cruise with no penalties,” the email offered.

The October 6, 2023 sailing falls in the “60 to 31 days” window for cancellation at this time, which would normally incur a 75% penalty for the cruise fare. Instead, Royal Caribbean is waiving that cancellation fee for this cruise.

Refunds will be processed within seven business days of cancellation, but the exact timing of funds returning to guests’ accounts will vary depending on the policies of individual financial institutions.

At this time, there is no easy way to predict when the island of Maui, and especially Lahaina, may reopen to tourism.

Access to the area is closed as emergency search and rescue operations are underway and safety is being assessed. Local authorities have instituted a curfew in the region, and many areas remain without power and cell service.

The wildfires on Maui have been noted as the deadliest in over 100 years, as at least 93 fatalities have been confirmed with just 3% of the destroyed area fully searched. Much of Lahaina is in ruins, with more than 2,200 buildings destroyed or damaged.

Only essential travel is being permitted to Maui at this time, and tourist travel would present a drain on local resources that are desperately needed for emergency efforts.

“In the weeks ahead, the collective resources and attention of the federal, state and county government, the West Maui community, and the travel industry must be focused on the recovery of residents who were forced to evacuate their homes and businesses,” said the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Cruise travelers with Hawaii sailings scheduled in the next few weeks and months should stay alert to notifications from their cruise line about itinerary changes or cancellations.

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