When Suzanne Peet set out with her partner for their first trip as a family since the birth of their daughter, she had no idea their hiking vacation in Norway would go south when their ride home stopped operating.
“It just really sucks,” Peet told Dutch News from Kristiansand, where she is stuck with her partner Rick, their one-year-old daughter Emily and their dog Laika. They were all notified by text message yesterday that their return ferry was cancelled because of financial problems at Holland Norway Lines.
The Dutch company that began ferrying passengers between Emden, Germany and Kristiansand, Norway in 2020, announced it was ceasing operations on Wednesday. It said this was due to “financial losses suffered at the beginning of this year” via a statement on its website.
It is unclear how many passengers have been impacted by the disruption. The company’s single ferry, the MS Romantika, carried some 1,500 passengers each way three times a week.
The email sent by Holland Norway Lines advised Peet and her family to look into other ferry options or alternative arrangements. In the announcement, the company said it “cannot make any statements” about reimbursements.
It has not responded to a request for comment by Dutch News via email and is not answering any of its phone numbers.
Under EU law, ticket holders are entitled to compensation if their ferry is cancelled according to Babs van der Staak of the Dutch consumer protection organisation Consumentenbond. “People who have a ticket, they have certain rights,” she told Dutch News.
At the moment, however, some travellers say they are stuck in limbo. The company is no longer operating but has not declared bankruptcy. On Wednesday it asked for a suspension of payments to creditors, according to the Financieele Dagblad.
Earlier this year the business lost its fixed spot in Eemshaven harbour, and its web statement said the current difficulties are “partly due to the financial losses incurred at the beginning of the year in connection with the troubled period at Eemshaven”.
If Holland Norway Lines goes under, Stichting Garantiefonds Reisgelden should compensate travellers for their tickets or return costs. The non-profit organisation provides guarantees to customers if travel companies go bust. But only one subsidiary of Holland Norway Lines is a member of the fund, so customers will need to check to see if their tickets are covered. “SGR cannot do anything at the moment,” a spokesperson told Dutch News.
In the meantime, Peet and her family are trying to figure out how to get home to Rotterdam. “Some ferries and trains don’t take dogs, and she’s too large for the inside of an airplane,” Peet says of their mixed-breed dog.
The family has travel insurance, but said this doesn’t cover the cost of return travel in the event of bankruptcy. The spokesperson for the Consumentenbond suggests that travellers should look into whether their travel or cancellation insurance covers the cost of extra expenses incurred, such as an additional night in a hotel.
Peet’s partner Rick has a looming deadline to return. He is a member of the National Reserve Corps and was part of the military group that won a pennant at this year’s Nijmeegse Vierdaagse. The group’s reward for taking home the top prize at the four-day march is a hike in Italy. He leaves next week for the trip if he’s back in the Netherlands.
“It’s all so frustrating,” Peet told Dutch News.