Uniworld demands compensation from MSC Cruises

Losses, including the protection of travel agent commissions to be in excess of €11.5m

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection's River Countess, after being struck by MSC Opera on 2 June 2019 in Venice | Image credit: AP Photo/Luca Bruno

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection brought suit against MSC Cruise Management (UK) Limited this week. Uniworld is seeking reimbursement for damages incurred following the 2 June, 2019 incident in which River Countess was struck and subsequently taken out of service by an out-of-control MSC Opera, while docked at the San Basilio Cruise Terminal in Venice, Italy.

Uniworld CEO and President Ellen Bettridge says that extensive conversations with MSC to compensate Uniworld for its losses have been unproductive.

“We are extremely disappointed with the unprofessional manner in which MSC has decided to ignore the gravity of the situation, which has disrupted our guests, our partners and our team,” said Bettridge. “Aside from the severe damage to our ship [River Countess], we were forced to cancel 14 voyages, frustrating our guests and travel partners during the peak summer season.”

To date, Uniworld estimates its losses that include passenger reimbursement, ship damage, lost revenue and the protection of travel agent commissions to be in excess of €11.5 million. This estimate excludes additional potential claims from customers and related damages.

“We do not like to litigate but have been compelled to do so based on the stonewalling and delays by MSC and its representatives – even after receiving a letter of guarantee by their own insurance agency, West of England. We expect more and better from a fellow member of the cruise industry and regret having to go to court to seek fitting remedy,” Bettridge said in a statement.

The incident, which remains under investigation by Italian authorities, impacted nearly 1,600 guests over the course of several months.

“The company prides itself on delivering service which exceeds our customers’ expectations and that is put to the test most not when things go right, but when things go wrong. We are holding MSC to that standard. This situation has been incredibly distressing, particularly for those guests and crew who experienced the traumatic moment onboard first-hand and those who watched the terrifying videos in the days to follow; we wish for nothing more than to put this behind us. It’s time for them to come to the table and make us whole,” said Bettridge.

MSC Cruises responded, saying it has been “working constructively with all parties and their legal advisors since shortly after the incident, and has been facilitating a close cooperation between those involved including their insurers. As liability in this matter is still under investigation by the responsible authorities it is inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

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