Mideast Violence Affects Cruise Travel

October 19, 2000
What is eerie about the U.S. State Department’s latest Worldwide Caution, issued October 12, isn’t just that it was inspired by the eruption of violence in the Mideast -- clashes in Israel and the Gaza Strip, and the gruesome terrorist attack on a U.S. Navy ship in Yemen -- but that the possibility for violent actions against U.S. citizens spreads beyond these boundaries. According to the public announcement, “several U.S. Embassies, including Damascus and Brussels, have recently been the target of violent anti-American demonstrations. In addition, anti-American demonstrations continue to take place in countries throughout the world in response to tensions and violence in the Middle East.” The State Department has issued a handful of travel warnings that cover Israel, of course: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza at this time due to continuing tensions and violence. Violent clashes and confrontations continue to take place throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Violence has also taken place in Israel and Jerusalem. U.S. Government employees who live in East Jerusalem have been relocated for the time being, and U.S. Government employees have been prohibited from traveling to the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, including the Old City and urged to avoid the Jaffa section of Tel Aviv.” As a result, a handful of cruise lines with scheduled stops this fall in Haifa and Ashdod are announcing altered itineraries. Seabourn Spirit, which had planned to embark (and disembark) passengers in Haifa on October 30 (which included pre- and post-cruise tours in the region) has replaced that port with Limassol on the Greek-Turkish island of Cyprus. Most cruise lines are taking a week-by-week look at the situation -- Royal Olympic, for instance, has canceled this week’s stop in Haifa but, for the moment, is hoping to resume calls there. On the other hand, Renaissance, which has two of its R-class ships in the region sailing 15-day Athens-Istanbul itineraries, is taking a more conservative approach. Through November, all cruise itineraries will replace Ashdod and Haifa with stops in Khatakolon and Nauplion, in Greece, and Antalya, in Turkey. Royal Caribbean has modified the itinerary for its November 18 sailing of Legend of the Seas. The 17-night cruise, part of the Royal Journeys program, will not make port calls previously scheduled for November 20 and 21 in Haifa and Ashdod, Israel, and November 25 in Aqaba, Jordan. Instead, the ship will visit Kusadasi, Turkey, on November 19, and Santorini, Greece, on November 20, and spend an additional day at sea. The State Department’s warnings don’t stop with Israel. It has also issued travel warnings on admittedly less visited spots such as Yemen -- no surprise there -- and Liberia, which, despite the fact that a number of cruise lines bear Liberian flags, hasn’t quite hit it off as a hot port-of-call.