Cruise West said it ceased operations on Saturday, Sept. 18.

With the exception of a Danube River cruise departing this Wednesday, the small-ship operator canceled all future cruises in 2010 and beyond.

"I am so very sad to send the attachment announcing the closure of Cruise West," said Dick West, Cruise West's CEO and son of its founder, Chuck West. "After 64 years, our family business has succumbed to the global economy.

"We are heartbroken that we are going to be disappointing so many wonderful travel partners and guests, many of whom have become part of our extended family over the years. We did everything we could — put everything we had into the business to make it through the Alaska season, but we have reached the end of the road. Things are now out of our hands."

Cruise West said that for the last year it had "aggressively pursued a number of options with interested parties to maintain operations, including investment, selling assets and selling the company. In part because of the most recent dip in the markets and the continued lack of economic confidence, these options have not come to fruition."

West said, "I have never given up hope that we might be able to find a way to survive by working with the various interested parties. I am absolutely heartbroken that this family legacy has come to end. We have a product that appeals to the type of traveler who wants to experience the destination, not the inside of a ship.

"We have a passionate following of repeat guests and I am particularly distressed that our most loyal guests who have booked with us will now not be able to travel. We have done absolutely everything to maintain operations, but with limited resources and the current tight financial market, we simply cannot continue."

West thanked the line's "loyal employees, many of whom have been here for decades."

"I am devastated that, though they have given abundantly of their time and energy, we will be unable to continue delivering memorable experiences," he said.

West said that Cruise West had commenced layoffs the week before, with a very small staff staying on to help with shutdown efforts.

Cruise West said it had taken steps to notify booked guests via phone, email, and through media outlets.For booked guests who have not yet traveled, Cruise West recommends the following steps:

● If third-party travel insurance was obtained, a claim should be placed immediately with the insurer. 

● If payment was made by credit card, a claim should be placed immediately with the card issuer. 

● If the payment was made by cash or check, and buyers have no travel insurance and the cruise departs from a U.S. port, they may file a claim with Cruise Claims c/o Wells Fargo Disability Management, PO Box 1567, Abingdon, Virginia 24212; phone: (877) 371-9700, extension 6059; fax: (276) 676-0152; or e-mail attachment to [email protected]. The e-mail should specify the claim is for cruise fare reimbursement. 

● If the payment was made by cash or check, and customers have no travel insurance and the cruise departs from a non-U.S. port, they may file a claim with USTOA, at the association's website. 

Cruise West said that its Galapagos partner, Canodros, operator of the Galapagos Explorer II, was working to provide an alternate program to Cruise West passengers already booked, and that those passengers should email inquiries to [email protected].

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