Thousands of passengers booked with Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) are seeking refunds after the line went into administration.
The Essex-based firm specialised in low-cost cruise holidays from UK ports using older vessels. Astoria, built in 1948, was the oldest ship in regular cruise service anywhere in the world.
Until the coronavirus pandemic, CMV was expanding successfully and planned to acquire two ex-P&O Australia vessels in 2021.
But the cruise business has been hit harder than any other part of the travel industry by the coronavirus pandemic.
Along with other cruise lines, CMV was hoping to resume operations in the latter part of 2020, with voyages to the Baltic, Norway, the Canary Islands, Madeira and Morocco.
But last week the Foreign Office warned against all cruise ship travel, barring river cruises, indefinitely. The Travel Weekly columnist Steve Dunne called the warning “devastating news for a sector already on its knees”.
CMV’s holding company was South Quay Travel & Leisure, which also operated Smile Group Travel, Transocean Kreuzfahrten of Germany and Croisières Maritimes et Voyages of France.
The chief executive, Christian Verhounig, said attempts to secure the company with additional funding had failed.
“Only last year CMV was celebrating a record trading year and our first decade in cruising but the CMV journey has tragically been cut short by this unprecedented global pandemic,” he said.
Almost half the planned capacity for the UK in 2021 has been sold, representing many thousands of advance bookings.
“All bookings that have not taken place are cancelled,” said the administrators, Duff & Phelps Ltd, in a statement on the company’s website.
Abta, the travel association, said: “The vast majority of holidaymakers’ arrangements are covered by Abta or Atol.”
Customers who booked through a travel agent should contact their retailer “for further advice and assistance as they may have made alternative arrangements for you,” said Abta.
Those who booked directly with the company using a debit or credit card are being told to claim a refund from the card issuer.
A small number of passengers have flight-inclusive bookings and should claim from the Civil Aviation Authority’s Atol scheme.
In June, the International Transport Workers’ Federation highlighted the case of 47 crew members aboard Astoria in the Thames Estuary who went on hunger strike in a bid to get their wages paid and repatriation to their home countries.