by Emma Featherstonee, The Telegraph, November 1, 2019
The once-in-a-lifetime trips of hundreds of passengers are thought to be at risk after luxury cruise line One Ocean Expeditions said it was entering a "period of restructuring".
One Ocean Expeditions (OOE) – which offers high-quality expedition adventures to the Arctic and Antarctica – announced in a post on Facebook this week that it was working to restructure the business.
Former and current staff at the Canadian-based company have claimed they are owed thousands of dollars in unpaid salary.
On October 24 OOE abandoned the planned itinerary of a 19-day bird-watching cruise to Antarctica. The 140 passengers booked on the cruise were offered a future cruise as a replacement but there was no mention of a refund, according to CBC .
Customers booked on future trips have been left uninformed as to whether their holidays will go ahead.
OOE charges more than $22,000 (£16,980) for some its most expensive expedition cruise. On its website the company says it aims “to have the best equipped, best prepared and best trained expedition team in the industry”. The company has had to cancel multiple trips in recent months, according to the Guardian .
Founded in 2007 by its current managing director Andrew Prossin, OOE has faced difficulties since a Russian government agency seized two ships from the company in June this year, leaving just one ship in operation.
Prossin said in a statement on Facebook: “The sudden withdrawal of two of three of our vessels earlier this year by their Russian ship owners caused a series of complex circumstances that our team is continuing to address.
“The withdrawal of these ships was an unexpected and destabilizing event, and the violation of our contract remains the subject of ongoing legal action… Unfortunately, the difficult reality is that in recent months we have fallen short of these high expectations we set for ourselves as a leader in the expedition cruise industry.”
Former OOE staff member Caro St John joined the company earlier this year as a bartender. She told CBC that six months after completing her contract with OOE she is still owed $6,400 (£4,940) and after much back-and-forth she still is not sure when she is getting paid.
"We're the ones who make the experience on the boats above and beyond. And then to not pay them and not communicate with them I think is very poor management,” she said.
Ten former and current OOE crew members from across the world told the Guardian some of the company’s contractors had not been paid in up to a year.
Sam Edwards, who worked for the company as a guide, told the newspaper: “The people that have been hit the worst are the people that really invested themselves in the company and worked full seasons for them – and worst of all, the people who are couples, with both members of the couple dependent on the company for the income.”
When in June authorities seized the two ships OOE had leased from Russia, the company wrote in a letter to booking agents: “The owners’ refusal to provide the vessels is a breach of their contract with OOE.
“OOE has done everything in its power to compel the owners to abide by their contractual obligations.”
The company launched legal action, saying in the letter that it had filed an urgent application for arbitration proceedings.
Expedition voyages are a growing segment of the cruise industry, with Celebrity, Ponant and Hurtigruten among the lines offering new ships and itineraries. At the Cruise Line International Associatio's (Clia) first expedition cruise forum last March, Silversea’s UK managing director and chairman of the Clia expedition working group Peter Shanks said the expedition cruise sector is expected to grow by 30 per cent by 2022.
Telegraph Travel has contacted OOE for comment.