UPDATE: Marseille Strike Ends, Some Lines Return

October 14, 2005

(5 p.m.) -- A 24-day labor strike at the Port of Marseille ended yesterday, and cruise lines are cautiously planning their return to this Western Mediterranean port.

MSC Cruises was the first to venture back: MSC Lirica called as scheduled in Marseille today, and MSC Sinfonia will visit tomorrow.

Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas, scheduled to visit Marseille on October 16, is replacing that port call with a visit to Toulon. Splendour has three additional calls in Marseille -- October 23 and 30, and November 6 -- but decisions on those calls have not yet been made.

Oceania Cruises, which visited Toulon on October 5 and 10 instead of Marseille, has two calls pending in November; a spokesperson tells us that "if the strike isn't broken by then, we'll berth at Toulon as we have previously." Silversea also has two calls scheduled at Marseille in the near future; a spokesperson tells us these may be canceled, but a final decision has not yet been made (Silver Shadow replaced Marseille with a stop at Sete last week).

Other lines with ships slated to call in Marseille include Princess and Holland America. Holland America tells us that Westerdam will call in Toulon tomorrow instead of Marseilles; we haven't heard back from Princess regarding rescheduling. Costa also avoided Marseille during the strike; click here for previously announced itinerary changes.

The strike was the result of worker protests against government plans to privatize SNCM, a state-owned ferry. The strike got so violent at one point that protesters actually hijacked one of the ferries (it was empty of passengers). But in the face of threats by the French government to declare the ferry company bankrupt, the strikers backed down and agreed by a large majority to return to work.

Ports are clustered so intimately along this part of the French Riviera that Silversea, for instance, reports that shore excursions remain unaffected despite the reroutings.

The port of Bonifacio, on the island of Corsica, is also potentially impacted but few cruise lines, aside from Star Clipper's Royal Clipper and Oceania, call there. At this point, a Star Clipper spokesperson reports there's been no change to the planned call there on Saturday. Oceania's next call is slated for October 14; no changes have been made at this point.