February 11, 2011
U.S. and U.K. governments aren't exactly encouraging travel to the country. A travel alert by the U.S. State Department warns travelers that although much of the political and social unrest that has affected Tunis and other major Tunisian cities has diminished, "spontaneous and unpredictable events continue to occur." The alert further states, "While demonstrations have not been directed toward Westerners, U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security."
While the U.K.'s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also acknowledges that it is "possible to have a trouble free visit," it suggests that travelers should still exercise caution. "Following the departure of the former President, a State of Emergency was declared on the afternoon of 14 January and this remains in place. The political situation in Tunisia is undergoing rapid and dramatic change. There were street protests and violence prior to and following the departure of former President Ben Ali. While all major groups have ended their demonstrations, further unrest remains possible. The situation could last some months," the FCO warns.
Want to know if your cruise ship plans on visiting Tunisia or canceling its calls? Here's what we know so far.
Costa: A statement from Costa representative Buck Banks affirms that the line has canceled all calls in Tunisia. On Mediterranean sailings, passengers will now visit Palma de Mallorca, Malta or Cagliari (Sardinia) instead of Tunisia. Passengers are being given the option to either rebook on select sailings, use a voucher to book another 2011 sailing or receive a refund according to the terms of their individual contracts.
Disney Cruise Line: Disney Magic will not be calling in Tunis during its upcoming Mediterranean season from May to September. The regularly scheduled calls in Tunis will be replaced with calls in Palermo, Italy. "We continually evaluate our itineraries and the decision to modify this itinerary was made in part due to the changing political environment in Tunis and the recent travel alert issued by the U.S. Department of State," said Disney spokeswoman Christi Erwin Donnan.
Louis Cruises: On Louis Cruises' March 4 eight-night "Tunis, Malta, Italy" sailing, Tunis will be scrapped for Katakolon.
MSC Cruises: Until the situation in Tunisia stabilizes, MSC Cruises ships will not call at Tunis and instead take alternate itineraries. Although MSC has not revealed the substitute ports yet, the affected ships are MSC Fantasia (April 16 to October 15 sailings), MSC Splendida (April 10 to November 6), MSC Lirica (April 18 to October 7) and MSC Sinfonia (June 4 to October 15).
SeaDream Yacht Club: SeaDream has revised the itinerary for SeaDream II's May 18 cruise, sailing roundtrip from Rome. Instead of visiting La Goulette (Tunis), the ship will visit Xlendi on Gozo Island, Malta, instead. In a company statement, SeaDream's president Bob Lepisto said, "Based upon the tension in Tunisia, we feel the safety and security there remains uncertain. For that reason, we have elected not to call on the port of La Goulette (Tunis), Tunisia."
Voyages to Antiquity: The line has announced that two scheduled sailings -- "Carthage Must Be Destroyed" and "Everything in Alexandria Was Superlative," each with port calls in Egypt and/or Tunisia -- have been scrapped. Instead, Voyages to Antiquity will be offering a new Athens-to-Rome cruise April 4-18. Passengers booked on the original sailings can choose to book the new itinerary, to book a different sailing later in the year or a full refund.
A few lines with Tunisia calls in the upcoming months are taking a wait-and-see approach. Holland America spokeswoman Mary Schimmelman tells us that "since our first scheduled call in Tunisia is not until May 3, 2011, no changes to published itineraries have been announced, however, the situation is being closely monitored. As always: Should an itinerary change be necessary, travel agents and guests will be notified closer to the affected sailing date."
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s lines have also not made any itinerary changes yet regarding Tunisia. We are still awaiting an update from Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor