Cruise Lines Embrace Libya -- Again

May 25, 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. Oceania Cruises quickly reacted as well, adding Libya to a spring 2007 itinerary.

That's good news for travelers seeking an exotic Mediterranean experience. Particularly since the disappointment of the 2005 cruise season, when cruise lines, for the first time in years, were finally able to schedule visits to places like Libya's Tripoli and Benghazi, only to find that a new rift between the U.S. government and Libya (over one of its diplomats who was denied entry into America) caused the proverbial backlash: officials there decided that while cruise ships could still call at its ports, any passenger with an American passport could not get off the ship. The only sight those folks could see was a view of Libya -- from the harbor.

Those affected sailed on lines like Oceania, which quickly dropped its visits to Libya (and declined to schedule more for 2006 until the situation became less volatile), Seabourn, Holland America's Prinsendam, and Silversea, all of which, despite last year's disappointments, did keep the country's ports on a few of their 2006 cruises.

Oceania quickly followed Discovery's move and added a single itinerary for Regatta next spring. If all goes well, expect more additions.

That's because Libya, at least as far as Western Mediterranean cruises are concerned, is the next frontier for seekers of exotic ports of call. Tucked between Egypt and Algeria, Libya's greatest touristic calling card is its wealth of archeological sites. Tripoli, for instance, is its largest city and historic capital; founded by the Phoenicians in 1000 BC, it reflects a variety of heritages by, among others, the Romans and Arab Muslims. Al Khums is a popular port of call for Leptis Magna, considered one of the world's best preserved Roman cities.