The holiday plans of thousands of families travelling to France this summer have been thrown into disarray after Irish Ferries cancelled bookings on its new WB Yeats ferry scheduled to depart in July.
In emails sent to affected passengers late on Friday evening, the company's managing director Andrew Sheen said it had "just been informed by the German shipyard building the WB Yeats, the ship on which you are currently booked, that her delivery to Irish Ferries is likely to be delayed".
He said while the delay had yet to be "fully confirmed by the shipyard we have, in the interests of minimising the level of potential disruption to you, taken the decision to cancel your sailing. We will contact you and offer you a space we have held for you on the MV Oscar Wilde close to your booked sailing date."
The email correspondence said that in the absence of an acceptable alternative passengers will be entitled to a full refund.
“Notwithstanding the extraordinary nature of the delay in the delivery of the ship to us, which is outside of our control, we do really value your support and would like to offer you a goodwill gesture of a €150 electronic voucher off an Ireland-France trip for use next year,” the email said.
An Irish Ferries spokesman told The Irish Times it is likely that affected passengers who choose to be rerouted on a different sailing might have to depart a day earlier or a day later than intended as there was "no precise overlap" between the scheduled departures of the WB Yeats and the Oscar Wilde.
He said the company did not have an estimate yet as to how many people were likely to be impacted by the cancellations as the situation remained fluid. He said discussions with the shipyard were ongoing and the “outcome could yet be positive”.
Once the ship is in the water, there will be space for 1,885 passengers and crew, 435 cabins and nearly 3km of car deck space. It will do three return journeys each week.
If its maiden voyage is delayed by just three weeks, in excess of 12,000 passengers are likely to see their plans disrupted.
The €147 million ferry is is due to start servicing routes from Ireland to France and the UK in July and will be the largest and most luxurious such vessel to shuttle passengers to and from Irish ports.