The Duncan Banner

February 21, 2013

Travel agencies report cruise rebookings are keeping them busy

Ship fire blamed on leak

Toni Hopper
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN —  

Even though no one from Duncan had booked passage on the Carnival cruise ship, Triumph, the stranded ship’s problems caused a ripple effect that has impacted area vacationers’ plans. 
A check with both of Duncan’s premiere travel agencies — First Class Travel and Sundown Travel, indicates that at least 100 people have had their near future plans altered. 
Sharon Presgrove, manager with First Class Travel, said earlier this week she had sailings canceled for more than 90 people. 
“I didn’t have any clients on it,” she said. “One day we had over 37 people through here. Even though people weren’t on the cruise, they wanted to know what would happen with their plans. All sailings have been canceled through April 13.”
And Cathy Riggins, co-owner of Sundown, said she had three cabins booked for Spring Break for area clients, that have been canceled.
On Thursday, Associated Press reported that investigators are now looking at ship logs among other items to determine why the Triumph cruise ship was stranded for five days in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the AP story, a leak in a fuel oil line caused the engine-room fire. Aboard the ship were 4,200 people — but power and working toilets were not services in operation. AP reported the cruise ship left Galveston, Texas, Feb. 7 for a four-day trip, but the fire cause
The Triumph left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 for a four-day trip to Mexico. The fire paralyzed the ship Feb. 10.
Among those having to rebook was Duncan High School’s vocal music group, led by Kevin Zinn, said Presgrove. 
“They were scheduled to go on a cruise and they worked so hard to raise money to go on the cruise. There were 44 students. I did rebook them for the end of the school, June 3-8, just today,” Presgrove said on Wednesday. “Their space is on hold.”
Zinn said Thursday that the cruise rebook is still not 100 percent sure, as there are several issues in trying to make sure to fill the spaces. Originally, 33 students and 11 adults were scheduled, because Carnival requires a certain number of adults for students. “I knew there would be conflicts. Jimmy did one in 2001 and he didn’t have these problems. We were going to go March 23,” Zinn said.
Presgrove and Riggins both said Carnival has been wonderful to work with in light of the issue, offering full refunds and even discounts for rebookings. 
Both Riggins and Presgrove said they have been extremely busy because of the rebookings. But they also said it seems like this will be a great year for travel. 
“That’s all our office has worked on all last week,” Presgrove said. In business for nine years, this isn’t the first time First Class Travel has had to scramble because of cruise ship issues. 
Presgrove said that during Hurricane Katrina, a ship had to be ported out of Galveston, Texas, to New Orleans so emergency workers could have housing. That meant that all the bookings had to be canceled. One of those bookings was the “Pat Bowles” group, with 52 people scheduled, Presgrove said. 
Presgrove said they’ve been super busy. She also said that in July 2012, they moved from their small space inside The Ginger Jar at Elk Plaza, to a much larger store right across from Hawkins TV. 
The move meant an expansion from 400 square feet to a full size agency of 1,500 square feet, with a waiting room even. Presgrove said it made a huge difference in dealing with the sudden rebookings. 
At Sundown Travel, Riggins said she was really glad that the recent Halliburton layoffs did not impact travel plans for area residents like she anticipated. 
“It’s really picked up and it appears to be a good year for travel. People seem to be booking earlier and there are a lot of last minute Spring Break trips scheduled for Mexico, the Carribean. I’ve been swamped all week,” Riggins said.