Cruise ships are avoiding potential war zones

Changes: Passenger, insurance concerns have forced revisions in itineraries until next year at least.


October 14, 2001|By Cynthia Corzo | Cynthia Corzo,MIAMI HERALD

Cruise lines are scrambling to reposition their ships away from potential areas of conflict and to redirect passengers to other popular destinations around the world.

Some lines scrapped entire itineraries and will instead ferry passengers around the Caribbean, in Alaska or through the Norwegian fjords rather than stop in places like Turkey, Egypt and Israel.

"We have seen some pretty dramatic impacts on all areas of our society, including the travel industry and its components," said David Giersdorf, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Holland America Line. Fifteen percent of the line's published itineraries and programs have changed, he said.

Driven by the need to ensure the safety of thousands of passengers -- and prodded by insurance companies who refuse to ensure ships sailing out of ports near trouble spots -- several cruise lines have moved ships out of areas like the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East and repositioned them to the western Mediterranean, Alaska, the Caribbean and Mexico.

From Egypt to India

Insurance underwriters, according to industry sources, have classified the area from east of Egypt to west of India as a "war risk zone," which essentially cancels cruise lines' standard insurance coverage and allows insurance companies to charge higher-than-normal fees for coverage. This has forced many cruise lines to abandon the area.

Another factor is that cruise lines want to allow more travelers fearful of flying to drive to departure points, especially those within the United States. Many trans-Panama Canal cruises, which normally operated one-way, will now be round-trip, allowing passengers to avoid international flights back to the United States.

"This will help customers and travel agents alike," Giersdorf said. "As of now, 360 of our 400 planned sailings will operate within a half-day's drive of 40 percent of the households of the United States."

The company has rearranged itineraries and repositioned several ships to avoid cities like Istanbul, Athens, Cairo, Haifa and Yalta.

The Amsterdam, for instance, was taken off its scheduled Istanbul-to-Venice route for 2002 and repositioned to sail between Alaska and Seattle. The Noordam changed its Rome-to-Istanbul itinerary -- which included stops in Naples, Italy; Loutraki, Catacolon, Santorini, Mykonos and Samos, Greece; and Kusadasi, Turkey -- to a Rome-to-Barcelona cruise with stops in Dubrovnik, Croatia; Corfu, Greece; Malta; Sicily; Minorca; and St. Tropez and Sete, France.

The terrorist attacks and the American strikes in Afghanistan forced cruise lines to revisit their itineraries through the end of this year and into the 2002 season.

"We feel Europe is still a very viable vacation market, and we will sail our newest ship there in the summer of 2002," said Jack Williams, president of Royal Caribbean International. "However, with the unpredictable nature of the current vacation marketplace, we think it is prudent to reposition some of our ships."

Of the four Royal Caribbean ships scheduled to sail in Europe during summer 2002, two were redeployed to the Americas -- sailing the western Caribbean and the Mexican Riviera.

Some cruise lines are adopting more of a wait-and-see attitude, shifting just one or two ports of call or making small changes to itineraries rather than canceling sailings altogether or taking ships away from an area.

Wait-and-see time

"We are in the middle of doing some things and waiting to see what happens," said Bruce Good, spokesman for Seabourn Cruise Line. "The Eastern Mediterranean is a concern for people. We'll be watching to see how those things continue to develop."

The Seabourn Sun, scheduled to depart from San Francisco in January for a round-the-world cruise, will avoid the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Instead, it will go from Bombay across the Indian Ocean to three ports of call in Africa, including Dakar, Senegal, from where it will cross the Atlantic into the Caribbean as scheduled.

"We want to avoid the Red Sea and Suez area more out of concern for the peace of mind of our guests. A lot of people booked on the cruise were concerned," Good said. "There obviously is increased insurance for those areas, and that is certainly a consideration as well."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.