Page last updated at 19:48 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 20:48 UK

Stranded tourists to be rescued by cruise ship


Celebrity Eclipse will return on Friday with stranded tourists from Spain

A new £500m luxury cruise ship has put its inaugural celebrations on hold to travel to Spain where it will pick up stranded tourists.

Celebrity Eclipse left Southampton for Bilbao at about 2000 BST.

The vessel was due to launch on Thursday, but tour operators have asked for it to pick up about 2,000 people stranded by volcanic ash air delays.

Flights into and out of the UK have been suspended since Thursday after a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

The Civil Aviation Authority said UK airspace was expected to reopen after 2200 BST.

Package holidays

Celebrity Eclipse, which can carry 2,850 passengers, arrived in Southampton at 0900 BST.

It is scheduled to arrive in Bilbao in the early hours of Thursday where those stranded will embark, before the ship returns to Southampton where it is expected to dock on Friday evening.

The global travel industry needs to pull together
Richard Fain, Celebrity Cruises

Some of the delayed holidaymakers have been stranded for up to seven days, many of whom were on package holidays with major UK tour operators.

Richard Fain, chairman of Celebrity Cruises, said: "The events affecting air travel are completely unprecedented and it is in times like these that the global travel industry needs to pull together."

He said he hoped guests booked on to the launch would understand the change of plan and the naming ceremony would now take place on Saturday.

Rescued holidaymakers will be travelling back in luxury on the ship which has a real lawn measuring nearly half an acre, as well as bars, 10 restaurants, a casino, a theatre and swimming and spa pools.

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