A maritime pilot strike has caused Princess Cruises’ Sky Princess to miss her scheduled visit to Ponta Delgada in the Azores, even though the ship was within sight of the island when the decision was made.

Instead, the vessel is continuing along on her transatlantic cruise with several days at sea up next for guests to enjoy.

Guests aboard Sky Princess were informed that they would not be visiting the Azores as planned only shortly before that visit was to have begun. An ongoing maritime pilot strike has created a work stoppage, meaning the cruise ship does not have proper guidance for safe docking.

Sky Princess is currently sailing a 15-night “Tropical Passage” transatlantic cruise from Southampton, UK to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The ship departed Southampton on Friday, November 10 and Ponta Delgada in the Azores was to have been the ship’s first port of call, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, November 14.

Instead, the ship will now continue on to Antigua, where she will visit on Monday, November 20, 2023. This means the first 10 days of the cruise are all at sea.

After Antigua, Sky Princess will visit top Caribbean ports, including St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, and Turks & Caicos before arriving in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, November 25.

Sky Princess Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Ian Peter Morton)

All pre-paid Princess Cruises’ shore excursions for Ponta Delgada are being automatically refunded, and the ship’s onboard entertainment and activities team is putting together additional options for the unexpected extra day at sea.

At this time, no further changes to Sky Princess‘ itinerary are anticipated, nor is there any impact on remaining ports of call or the ship’s scheduled arrival to Fort Lauderdale.

The 145,281-gross-ton, Royal-class Sky Princess can welcome 3,660 guests aboard for every sailing, and is also home to approximately 1,300 international crew members.

The pilot strike is organized between two unions of Portugal’s maritime pilots – the Workers Union of Maringa Trade (SINCOMAR) and the Federation of Transport and Communications Unions (FECTRANS). Union negotiations are in dispute, with the pilots wanting reassurance about retirement ages and greater recognition of the risky nature of their professional activities.

The strike has been planned and notice provided that strike dates would include November 6-8, November 14-16, November 22-24, and November 29-30. All ports of call in Portugal are impacted, including the Azores, Lisbon, and others, for both cruise traffic as well as cargo operations.

Because the negotiations are ongoing, it is always possible that the planned strike days will not be necessary and port operations would be able to continue normally. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for Sky Princess‘ visit this week.

Sky Princess Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: sallystap / Shutterstock)

On upcoming strike dates, cruise ships from Norwegian Cruise Line, P&O Cruises, Costa Cruises, AIDA Cruises, and Ambassador Cruise Line may see impact at different Portugal ports, depending on how negotiations proceed and what type of strike action is taken at each port.

Port pilots are highly experienced maritime experts, certified to work in their specific ports, guiding vessels through docking operations and tricky channels. This requires detailed knowledge of the harbor and the effects of winds, tide, and other conditions on local navigability. Moving on and off ships can be dangerous, and pilots must also be familiar with the operation of different vessels they serve.

Read Also: What Does a Ship Pilot Do?

Pilot strikes occasionally impact cruise operations, depending on the nature and timing of the strike. Sometimes, port pilots will continue to service cruise vessels but will strike against cargo operations, or there may be a slowdown rather than a full work stoppage, which means some cruise ships may have service as normal while others do not.

Other types of strikes can also impact cruise ships. If dock workers strike, for example, a ship may be unable to tie up safely, or cargo supplies may not be able to be loaded.

If local porters strike, baggage handling operations would be affected. Cruise passengers can also be impacted by airline pilot strikes if they must fly to or from their cruise vacations.

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