April 24, 2006
Earlier this month, Discovery World Cruises decided to add the ports of Benghazi, Al Khums and Tripoli to its fall and winter itineraries -- literally less than 24 hours after the U.S. government announced that it would resume diplomatic ties with Libya.
In doing so, it's the first cruise line -- this year, that is -- to offer American travelers a chance to visit this country, long on the "undesirable" list as far as the U.S. government has been concerned.
If this sounds like deja vu all over again, it is. Last spring, a thawing in governmental relations between the U.S. and Libya had cruise lines clamoring to call at its ports. Indeed, there was so much built-up interest that it quickly became a "marquee" port (the one destination on an itinerary that motivates bookings) for lines like Silversea and Oceania.
And then, relative disaster: Last fall, a new feud between the governments of the U.S. and Libya (the U.S. denied a Libyan diplomat entry into the country) resulted in the latter effecting a pay-back. Sure, ships could come to call but only passengers with non-U.S. passports would be allowed off their ships. So the only sights those Americans who'd booked their cruises because of the inclusion of the exotic Libya got to see were various harbors -- from their cruise ships. Silversea, Orient Lines and Oceania were among the lines whose ships stopped at Libyan ports as scheduled, and whose American passengers were kept onboard.
While Silversea kept its calls at Libya's Tripoli, Benghazi and Derna on itineraries (and even added Tobruk) in 2006, and Seabourn continues to offer a handful of overnight calls in Tripoli, these two lines have represented the minority this year. Now, MV Discovery, neither a mass-market ship nor a luxury vessel, will offer multi-day calls on three trips this fall.
Otherwise, none of the mainstream big-ship lines -- such as Holland America and Princess, which tend to offer more exotic itineraries than their counterparts -- include Libya on Mediterranean voyages. Even after the U.S. State Department's rapprochement this month, Oceania's Tim Rubacky initially told Cruise Critic that the line was taking a cautious approach: "Until the situation proves itself to be stable and predictable, we will not be calling upon Libya."
However, Oceania has since changed its mind and will now let Regatta visit on its April 10, 2007 voyage.