Uniworld has cancelled the next six sailings of the River Countess after it was hit by ocean cruise ship MSC Opera while docked in Venice on Sunday.

The affected sailings include the ‘Gems of Northern Italy’ cruise-tour, scheduled for June 7, 14, 21 and 28, and July 5 and 12.

The River Countess is due to return to service July 21, when it sets sail from Venice as part of the July 19 cruise-tour date, commencing in Milan.

Uniworld president and CEO Ellen Bettridge said a member of the company’s reservations team would contact all impacted customers and travel agents to inform them of the cancellations and give them options to rebook.

“We have begun immediate outreach to our guests and travel advisor partners with this news and are offering options to rebook,” she said.

UK managing director Chris Townson explained that the accident happened on turnaround day, meaning only 26 of the ship’s passengers had been on board at the time of the impact. Most had already disembarked to travel home.

He said four suffered “minor injuries – mainly cuts and bruises”.

Of those due to join the ship on Sunday afternoon for the next sailing, 24 were from the UK.

Alternative accommodation in two five-star hotels in Venice was immediately sourced for passengers, and excursions around Venice were arranged until a complete review of the damage could be completed by Uniworld’s technical and nautical team.

Townson said: “We called every single agent who had customers due to join the ship on Sunday.

“A lot of agents weren’t in, but we spoke to those that were and explained what was happening. We called the rest this morning (Monday). The feedback from the trade has been great. They liked that we had been so proactive.”

Townson welcomed news that Sunday’s incident had prompted the mayor to call for another review of cruise tourism to Venice.

“I think a review is a good thing. That’s not me having a go at ocean cruise but safety is paramount. It’s probably time to have one. It’s become a big debate. It happened to us this time but it could easily happen to something else,” he said.

Bettridge added: “We appreciate the outpouring of support and well-wishes by our guests, travel advisor partners and industry colleagues, and would like to thank everyone for their support.”

Uniworld added: “Additional updates will be made as information becomes available.”

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