Shark Attacks In Egyptian Port Prompt Cruise Lines to Cancel Excursions

December 6, 2010
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sharm-el-sheikh-shark-attacks (10:30 a.m. EST) -- Passengers on cruises calling at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh have been warned to stay out of the water -- and a pair of lines have canceled snorkeling and diving excursions for now -- following a series of shark attacks on swimmers.

On Sunday, December 5, a 70-year old German woman died after being bitten by a shark. Four other tourists, three Russians and one Ukrainian, were mauled last week, but survived.

Following the initial attacks, the beaches had been closed for 48 hours, and two oceanic whitetip sharks were caught and killed. Sunday's tragedy has prompted officials to suspend snorkeling and most watersports, but experienced divers will be allowed into the water starting tomorrow, according to report from the Guardian.

Costa Cruises has two ships, Costa Marina and Costa Allegra, using Sharm el-Sheikh for turnarounds. Costa Marina is due to board this Thursday for its "Corals and Ancient Treasures" itinerary, which overnights in the port, while Costa Allegra is turning around in Sharm el-Sheikh today.

Costa Cruises has released the following statement: "At the moment, due to restrictions ordered by local authorities, swimming at sea is forbidden. Consequently we decided to cancel all snorkeling/scuba excursions. We are informing our guests onboard accordingly. As per planned itinerary our ship is scheduled to stay at Sharm el-Sheikh for one day."

Passengers who cancel snorkeling excursions will, the company confirmed, get a full refund.

Thomson Cruises, meanwhile, uses Sharm el Sheikh as a winter base for its 33,930-ton, 1,254-passenger Thomson Celebration, which is due to embark its "Red Sea Magic" itinerary on Thursday this week. Some passengers are also in hotels in the resort on cruise-and-stay packages.

"Thomson can confirm it is advising all of its customers in Sharm el-Sheikh that all diving and water-sport activities are suspended," the line said in a statement. "We have also cancelled all water-based excursions until further notice."

While heading below the surface of the Red Sea is a major draw in Sharm, there are a number of other activities on offer. Passengers can take camel and jeep safaris into the Sinai desert, visit the sixth century St Catherine's Monastery and browse the markets in the resort town.

The popular diving resort and cruise port, which attracts some three million tourists a year, has never experienced shark attacks before, and the oceanic whitetip shark normally swims in open water. One of the theories about why these man-eaters are so close to the shore is, according to the BBC Web site, that a cargo ship carrying Australian sheep and cattle for sacrifice during last month's Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha dumped the carcasses of animals which had died during the voyage too close to the shore, attracting the sharks.

We'll keep you posted as events unfold.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor