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Farewell Renaissance Cruises

Renaissance Cruises today announced that it has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization and has ceased all operations.

"Renaissance Cruises has very reluctantly elected to seek court protection after exhausting every other avenue to work out a comprehensive business solution," said Manfred Urpsrunger, President and Chief Executive Officer for Renaissance Cruises. He adds:

"In light of the severe, unexpected drop in leisure travel following the terrorist attacks on the United States and the immediate and adverse impact on the Company's late stage recapitalization efforts, we concluded that this was the only responsible action we could take to exit our business in an orderly fashion while preserving value for our investors. We want to thank our customers, travel agent partners, and employees for their support over the last year, and assure them that we are taking the necessary steps to minimize the impact of this filing on them."

Renaissance is the fifth largest cruise line in the world and is the largest cruise line ever to cease operations. How this affects the rest of the cruise industry remains to be seen. "While Renaissance only had two percent of the market in a practical sense, it won't help the industry. It may make travelers nervous about booking a cruise," says Brian Major, Cruise Editor at Travel Weekly.

Several travel agents that I spoke with were in shock at Renaissance's sudden departure. "This will leave a huge gaping hole in the cruise product mix in that we can offer the client," says Lucy Hirleman, CTC and President of Berkshire Travel in Newfoundland, NJ. She adds, "The real loser is going to be the consumer because the uniqueness of the Renaissance product addressed an entire new market segment. That segment is the younger upscale boomer (mid-30s to mid-40s) that wanted a more casual, yet elegant cruising experience."

Travelers who are planning cruises in the near future need to take extra precautions to avoid losing their vacation investment. "Future cruise consumers need to take caution," warns Tim Rubacky, Cruisemates Consumer Affairs Editor. He says, "Any passenger who is booked on a cruise line that is not one of the big three (Carnival, Royal Caribbean/Celebrity, Princess), it is strongly suggested that they purchase third party insurance to protect against supplier default (a.k.a. bankruptcy)." He adds, "But to be extra safe, all passengers should purchase insurance to air on the side of caution."

Renaissance said that it is making necessary provisions to return any passengers, who are on current cruises or in transit, to homeports. Because none of Renaissance's cruises departed from the U.S., the deposits of North American vacationers with pending bookings would not be covered under the Federal Maritime Commission's bond program. Customers with upcoming bookings should contact their credit card companies and travel agents for refund arrangements.

On a personal note:

This is a very sad day for me. As an avid cruiser, Renaissance had become my cruise line of choice. The ships, itinerary, and personnel were first rate. Moreover, cruise journalists everywhere are losing the best Public Relations Manager in the business, Brad Ball, who was always there to answer questions and promptly return phone calls to help us meet our deadlines. To the Renaissance employees everywhere, you will be sorely missed.

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