| Date Published: February 4, 2011 |
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|Egypt Update: State Department Issues Stronger Warning|
(10:30 a.m. EST) -- Cruise lines and tour operators continue to tweak and cancel itineraries as the unrest in Egypt escalates, leaving travelers on edge during what is the peak season for Nile River cruises.
In response to the protests, which are aimed at the Egyptian government, the U.S. State Department posted a more strongly worded travel warning, ordering "the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members from Egypt," and recommending that "U.S. citizens avoid travel to Egypt at this time. U.S. citizens should consider leaving Egypt as soon as they can safely do so." Meanwhile, the U.K. Foreign Office has a notice on its site, advising against "all but essential travel" to the area.
A handful of lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC, Costa and Grand Circle Cruises, altered or canceled additional Egypt sailings. Many smaller lines that offer river itineraries have scrapped the cruises altogether through the end of February and are offering passengers the option to rebook or request a full refund. But, some of the larger lines with ships due in the area have simply replaced calls in Alexandria with visits to alternative ports.
We're keeping a close eye on developments, but here's the latest from the lines.
NCL: Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that it will replace a sea day and an overnight in Alexandria with two overnights in Istanbul on its February 13 and March 6 Norwegian Jade sailings. Spokesperson Courtney Recht says because the situation is beyond the line's control, compensation will not be offered for the itinerary changes.
MSC: MSC's Julianne Carelli has announced that, until further notice, Egypt ports will be pulled from the line's itineraries for the remainder of the season. This change affects two ships: MSC Magnifica and MSC Splendida. Calls in Alexandria will be replaced by stops in Limassol and Haifa. No compensation will be offered to passengers for the missed ports, as the situation is beyond the line's control.
Costa: A statement from Costa representative Buck Banks tells us that the line has canceled all calls in Egypt and Tunisia, which is also experiencing unrest. Red Sea cruises on Costa Allegra and Costa Marina will now focus on Jordan and Isreal, with a turnaround at Aqaba. For Mediterranean itineraries that included stops in Alexandria, ships will instead call on Greece or Israel. On Mediterranean sailings that were to include stops in Tunisia, passengers will now visit Palma de Mallorca, Malta or Cagliari (Sardinia). No compensation will be given to passengers for the missed ports, as the situation is beyond the line's control.
Viking River Cruises: Viking's Egypt cruises are canceled through February 28, according to a statement from line spokesperson Julie Rosoff. Anyone booked on an affected sailing can rebook with no penalty or choose full refunds. Passengers who were in Cairo have since been transported to a hotel in Frankfurt. They are scheduled to fly back to the U.S. on February 2.
Grand Circle Cruises: Grand Circle Cruises has scrapped all sailings bound for Egypt through February 15. The announcement was on the line's Facebook page. People booked on those sailings have the option to rebook on another sailing or take a full refund.
Abercrombie & Kent: All Egypt sailings through March 31 have been canceled, according to Abercrombie & Kent representative Pamela Lassers. The line is allowing those affected to rebook on alternative sailings or receive full refunds.
Uniworld: In a statement, Uniworld has announced the cancellation of all Egypt sailings through February 28. Passengers may choose to rebook or receive full refunds.
Avalon Waterways: A press release from Avalon Waterways says the line has canceled its cruises through February 28. Passengers booked on those sailings have the option of rebooking on an alternative sailing or receiving full refunds.
Cosmos Tourama: A statement on the line's Web site says sailings have been canceled through February 28, and passengers can choose to rebook or receive full refunds.
Thomson Cruises: Thomson Cruises' Thomson Celebration is scheduled to complete its current Red Sea voyage on February 3. According to spokeswoman Kate Lomax, "some changes to the itinerary have unfortunately had to be made, including the cancellation of ... Luxor ... on Wednesday (2 February)." On its subsequent voyage, Thomson tells us the ship will still call on Safaga on February 7, but visits to Luxor are canceled. Calls on Port Shokna (for Cairo) will be replaced with calls on Eilat on February 8 and 9, with shore excursions to Jerusalem and Bethlehem offered.
Discover Egypt: Discover Egypt's February 7 departures from Gatwick and Manchester to Luxor have been canceled. Those booked on the affected sailings will receive refunds. Line spokesperson Marlen Tafarello tells us a decision will be made next week regarding sailings scheduled for February 14.
Titan HiTours: Anthea Yabsley, spokeswoman for Titan, says departures to Egypt are canceled through February 2, and those currently in Egypt have been transported back to the U.K. We're awaiting information on the fate of subsequent sailings.
We're curious: Given the unrest in Egypt, will you return to the country or consider a cruise? Vote in our poll.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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