The war in the Persian Gulf has forced most cruise lines to cancel their remaining spring and summer schedules in the Mediterranean.
Instead of visiting ports such as Istanbul, Turkey; Athens, Greece; Alexandria and Port Said, Egypt; and Ashdod, Israel, the ships will be sailing the more familiar waters of the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, New England and Atlantic Canada. The changes should provide a bonus to vacationers considering a cruise: With the added capacity in the Caribbean and Alaska, lower rates and discounts should be abundant. On the down side, the additional cruise ships and passengers could stress port facilities there.
Before Jan. 16, the lines judiciously had shifted liners from the eastern to western Mediterranean. With the onset of war and an increased threat of terrorism, the Mediterranean market dried up. One by one, the lines again altered schedules.
While most lines have chosen itineraries they know best, one in particular has taken an innovative approach on ports. Seabourn Cruise Line is adding calls at Canada's Atlantic provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador.
Here's a rundown on what some of the lines are doing:
*Crystal Cruises. Instead of sailing between Rome and Barcelona, the Crystal Harmony will do a mix of trans-Panama Canal, Mexican Riviera, Alaska/Canada and New England/Canada voyages. The decision to cancel the 1991 Europe season was based on the gulf war and the line's belief that it was in the best interest of the guests, crew and ship safety not to sail to that region of the world, said Arthur A. Rodney, Crystal's president.
*Cunard Line. The Sea Goddess I, scheduled to go to Europe in late March, will remain in the Caribbean, said Susan Brady, a Cunard spokeswoman. At the end of March, the 116-passenger luxury vessel will sail through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles for a series of weeklong Mexican Riviera cruises, calling at Zihuatenejo, Manzanillo, Cabo San Lucas and Acapulco. Then it will sail from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and to Victoria and Vancouver in British Columbia. From June 16 to Sept. 12, it will make 12 weeklong cruises from Vancouver to Whittier, Alaska.
Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2, now on its around-the-world cruise, has altered its itinerary to skip the Mediterranean and Suez Canal. Instead, it will sail around South Africa to Southampton. On April 4 the QE2 will make the first of 24 trips across the Atlantic, between Southampton and New York, as well as Charleston, S.C., and Baltimore.
*Epirotiki Lines. So far, Epirotiki officials have not made any any changes in itineraries out of Piraeus (Athens).
"We are studying the possibility of how to change some of our cruises, especially the seven-day cruises beginning in May on the Jason, slated to visit Rhodes, Alexandria and Port Said in Egypt; Ashdod, Israel; Kusadasi, Turkey; and Patmos," said Lou Garcia, a spokesman in New York. The line, which caters more to Europeans than Americans, still has two- to seven-day Greek Island cruises.
*Princess Cruises. The Crown Princess, scheduled to make a series of 12- and 14-day Mediterranean and Black Sea cruises from April through October, instead will carry passengers on seven-day eastern and western Caribbean sailings out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., starting April 20, said Jill Biggins, a Princess spokeswoman.
The line so far will keep its Royal Princess on a series of 12-day itineraries in the western Mediterranean/Atlantic and Scandinavia/Soviet Union from April to September. Ports include Venice, Barcelona, Cannes, Monte Carlo, Naples, Athens and Mykonos. Out of London, the ship will visit Copenhagen, Leningrad, Helsinki, Stockholm and Amsterdam.
*Royal Cruise Line. The Golden Odyssey, scheduled for eight months of European cruising, will operate in the Caribbean and the Mexican Riviera. It will cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver to begin a series of sailings between Vancouver and Whittier, the port for Anchorage, Alaska. In the fall, the Odyssey will transit the Panama Canal for six weeklong sailings between New York and Montreal.
"We believe worldwide political events will keep more Americans close to home," said Carol McRonald, Royal's marketing vice president.
*Royal Viking Line. The Royal Viking Sun will sail out of Fort Lauderdale April 26 on a series of three new Atlantic cruises instead of operating solely in the Mediterranean and Western Europe. Ports will include Savannah, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; New York; Hamilton, Bermuda; Portland, Maine; Quebec; and Montreal, spokeswoman Patrice Auspitz said. The third new cruise will continue on from Boston and Portland to Reykjavik, Iceland; Denmark's Faroe Islands; Bergen, Norway; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Copenhagen, Denmark.
*Seabourn Cruise Line. "After looking at the situation, we see people staying closer to home but more willing to fly to domestic ports," said Warren Titus, Seabourn president. "We've never experienced anything like this before," he said, referring to the combination of war and recession. The 204-passenger, all-suite Seabourn Pride will sail out of Boston, Montreal, Quebec and Halifax, Nova Scotia, on a series of 14 new one- and two-week cruises from May through August. It will call at ports in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.
*Sun Line Cruises. Instead of sailing out of Piraeus, the line's Stella Solaris will cruise out of Galveston, Texas, on a Caribbean-Mexican itinerary to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.