Vacationers booked on the Celebrity Mercury after Valentine's Day next year will have to make new plans.
That's because the ship that opened Charleston's 2010 cruise season -- and had to be scrubbed multiple times after hundreds of passengers fell ill on three consecutive sailings -- is getting a new name with a different company in 2011.
Celebrity Cruises announced Thursday that the Mercury will become the second ship in the TUI Cruises fleet. The joint venture between Celebrity's parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and TUI AG caters to the German market.
The Mercury will become Mein Schiff 2, which translates to My Ship.
Asked whether the negative attention garnered by the norovirus outbreaks contributed to the name change and repositioning of the ship, Celebrity spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said, "Not at all."
The ship will continue to sail as the Mercury until next Feb. 14, though Charleston's cruise calendar includes six calls by the vessel after that date.
Celebrity officials said customers who booked cruises after the newly announced transition can cancel and get refunds, or they can move their reservations to a sailing from Baltimore between Oct. 18, 2010, and Feb. 26, 2011. The exception is a cruise that leaves Dec. 20.
Passengers who choose the Baltimore option will receive a $75 to $200 onboard spending credit, depending on the price of their rooms.
State Ports Authority spokesman Byron Miller said the cruise schedule for 2011 remains in the works. He also said that Royal Caribbean Cruises "has been and, we're sure, will continue to have a presence in the Port of Charleston."
The Mercury is scheduled to make its next local call at Union Pier on Oct. 31. It is set to sail as Mein Schiff 2 next May in the Baltic and Nordic regions.
It becomes the second ship in the TUI Cruises fleet and sister ship to Mein Schiff, formerly Celebrity Galaxy, which began sailing under that name a year ago.
The Mercury's transition to TUI marks a return home -- it was built in Germany in 1997. The ship, which can carry nearly 1,900 passengers and more than 900 crew members, will receive an extensive refurbishment before launching, according to company officials.
That includes more verandas, an expanded spa and fitness area and a teen bar.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.