Update: It's being reported that a second German-based cruise operator, Plantours & Partner, will debark passengers prior to sailing through the Gulf of Aden. Some 200 folks onboard the ship Vistamar will be dropped off in Yemen, and the vessel will proceed through the dangerous area with a small crew.
Citing "growing safety concerns" about pirate attacks, Hapag-Lloyd has decided not to sail passengers onboard its ship Columbus on the first segment of a world cruise through the Gulf of Aden. Instead, passengers will debark at an undisclosed location and fly to Dubai.
A recent attack by pirates on a deluxe cruise ship, Oceania Cruises' Nautica, in the Gulf of Aden has heightened concerns about pirate activity and the safety of cruise passengers in the area (the Gulf of Aden is located between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea). In the first itinerary change we've seen since the attack, Hapag-Lloyd now plans to debark 300 passengers and crewmembers from Columbus and sail the ship through the Gulf of Aden with only a skeleton crew.
In an official statement from the German luxury cruise line, Sebastian Ahrens, managing director, stated, "Our passenger's safety is our highest priority. As long as the situation is uncertain in the area, and as long [as] German authorities have a travel warning issued, we will not cruise through the Gulf of Aden with passengers onboard."
Passengers will disembark in an undisclosed location -- likely in or near Hodeidah, Yemen, the ship's final port of call before the Gulf of Aden -- and will fly to Dubai, where they will be put up in a five-star hotel. There will be no additional cost to passengers for the flight or hotel stay. Travelers booked only on the 19-day first segment of Columbus' world cruise, scheduled to end in Dubai, can continue their travel as planned from Dubai. Passengers on the full world cruise will reboard the ship in Salalah, Oman.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor
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Update: Second Ship to Sail Passenger-Free Through Gulf of Aden
December 11, 2008