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Cruise ship sails for Alaska after overnight delay in Vancouver due to tugboat strike

Ship to skip its trip to Icy Strait in Alaska, but will stick to the rest of its weeklong itinerary
People stand on decks at the bow of the Celebrity Cruises vessel Celebrity Eclipse as it leaves port in Vancouver for a trip to Alaska, on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An Alaska-bound cruise ship set sail from Vancouver Monday after an almost daylong delay because of a tugboat strike sparked a flood of complaints from stranded passengers.

The Celebrity Eclipse had been scheduled to depart at 4 p.m. Sunday, but Celebrity Cruises said the ship became stuck in the Port of Vancouver because it was attached to a barge and tugboat workers were refusing to remove it.

Passenger Steve Bains said the captain announced just after midday Monday that workers had agreed to detach the ship from the barge, and later sent photos confirming the ship set sail around 12:45 p.m.

The cruise line said on its Twitter account that the ship will skip its trip to Icy Strait in Alaska, but will stick to the rest of the weeklong itinerary as planned.

It will also be issuing a “credit equal to the amount of 1.5 days” and that any excursions booked through the company for Icy Strait would be cancelled and refunded, it said.

The cruise line’s social media accounts were filled with complaints from people, many of whom said they were stuck on the ship.

Laura Dietz was among those who voiced concerns on Twitter about the delay.

“Telling your stranded customers onboard the Eclipse in Vancouver that you’re doing everything you can 24 hours later isn’t good enough,” she said in a tweet to the company Monday morning.

In a private message, she said her mother and stepfather, both in their 70s, were passengers on the boat. She said they had travelled from England and that their trip had been cancelled twice due to COVID-19.

“(They are) exhausted, trapped, frustrated and saddened that the trip has turned into this,” she said in the message before the ship’s departure.

Bains, who had boarded the ship with his wife around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, said people were frustrated with the lack of communication from staff Sunday night.

“We’re stuck. In a sense, we’re being held hostage,” he said in an interview about two hours before departure.

“People are kind of resigned and are trying to make the most of it (but) the longer this goes on, I think it’s getting more discouraging.”

An on-board announcement Monday morning from the ship’s captain said the Eclipse was expected to depart later that day, saying the job action was the cause for the delay.

“This is a most unusual and unfortunate situation and we are as frustrated as you are,” the captain said. “We will more regularly communicate with you to keep you fully informed on our progress.”

The announcement to passengers was made around 10:30 a.m. while The Canadian Press was speaking with someone on the ship.

The Canadian Merchant Service Guild began job action on all 30 tugs operated in the province by Seaspan, a Vancouver marine services company, on Thursday after it said contract negotiations reached an impasse.

Adam D’Agostino, a spokesperson for Seaspan, said it was unfortunate that its negotiations with the tugboat union had negatively impacted customers.

“Seaspan had made arrangements to minimize the impacts to our customers and the broader industry, and it was unfortunate that the job action by CMSG workers has caused other union workers to refuse work that has resulted in delays to vessels and, in some cases, passengers,” he said.

D’Agostino said the company had contracted the work to a separate tugboat company that had initially refused to unmoor the cruise ship from the barge.

“In the end, that company that we contracted the work out to got around to removing it,” he said.

The Celebrity Eclipse has a capacity of 2,850 people, but the company has not said how many people are on board.

—Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press

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