(Updated 1 p.m. EST) -- After raging for a week, violent protests in Egypt have caused cruise cancellations to seep into March. The lines began announcing the changes earlier today.
In response to the protests, which are aimed at the Egyptian government, the U.S. State Department earlier this week issued a travel warning, ordering the "departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members from Egypt" and recommending that "U.S. citizens avoid travel to Egypt at this time. U.S. citizens should consider leaving Egypt as soon as they can safely do so." Meanwhile, the U.K. Foreign Office has a notice on its site, advising against "all but essential travel" to the area. The notice also says a charter flight will be available tomorrow (Saturday) for British nationals who wish to return home.
We're keeping a close eye on developments, but here's the latest from the lines.
Abercrombie & Kent: All Egypt sailings through March 31 have now been canceled, according to a statement on the Abercrombie & Kent Web site. Affected passengers may request full refunds or choose to rebook with the line at a 10 percent discount.
Uniworld: In a statement, Uniworld announced the cancellation of all Egypt sailings through March 31. Passengers may choose to rebook or receive full refunds. For sailings in April and May, no cancellations have yet been made, so refuns are not allowed, but those booked on those sailings can rebook with no penalty.
Cosmos Tourama: A statement on the line's Web site says sailings have been canceled through March 13, and passengers can choose to rebook or receive full refunds.
NCL: A statement on Norwegian Cruise Line's Web site (yellow "News Alert" tab on left) says the line will replace a sea day and an overnight in Alexandria with two overnights in Istanbul on its February 13 and March 6 Norwegian Jade sailings. Because the situation is beyond the line's control, compensation will not be offered for the itinerary changes.
Louis Cruises: Louis Cruises has announced it will replace Alexandria and Port Said with Katakolon and Nafplion, respectively, on its February 20 12-night "Eastern Mediterranean Highlights" cruise. On its March 4 eight-night "Tunis, Malta, Italy" sailing, Tunis will be scrapped for Katakolon.
Voyages to Antiquity: The line has announced that two scheduled sailings -- "Carthage Must Be Destroyed" and "Everything in Alexandria Was Superlative," each with port calls in Egypt and/or Tunisia -- have been scrapped. Instead, Voyages to Antiquity will be offering a new Athens-to-Rome cruise April 4-18. Passengers booked on the original sailings can choose to book the new itinerary, to book a different sailing later in the year or request a full refund.
MSC: MSC has announced in a statement (bottom of page) that, until further notice, Egypt ports will be pulled from the line's itineraries for the remainder of the season (through December). Visits to Jerusalem, Heraklion, Haifa, Athens, Izmir, Limassol, Valletta and/or Taormina will replace stops at Cairo and Alexandria. No compensation will be offered to passengers for the missed ports, as the situation is beyond the line's control. However, itineraries may go back to normal if the situation changes.
Costa: In a statement from Costa, the line has canceled calls in Egypt and Tunisia, which is also experiencing unrest. Red Sea cruises on Costa Allegra and Costa Marina will now focus on Jordan and Israel, with a turnaround at Aqaba. For Mediterranean itineraries that included stops in Alexandria, ships will instead call on Greece or Israel. On Mediterranean sailings that were to include stops in Tunisia, passengers will now visit Palma de Mallorca, Malta or Cagliari (Sardinia). Passengers are being given the option to either rebook on select sailings, use a voucher to book another 2011 sailing or receive a refund according to the terms of their individual contracts.
Viking River Cruises: Viking's Egypt cruises are canceled through March 31, according to a statement from the line. Anyone booked on an affected sailing can rebook with no penalty or choose a full refund.
Avalon Waterways: A press release from Avalon Waterways says the line has canceled its cruises through March 13. Passengers booked on those sailings have the option of rebooking on an alternative sailing or receiving a full refund.
Grand Circle Cruises: Grand Circle Cruises has scrapped all sailings bound for Egypt through February 28. The announcement is on the line's Web site. (Scroll down, and click on the "Egypt Update" tab.) People booked on those sailings have the option to rebook on another sailing or take a full refund.
Thomson Cruises: Thomson Cruises' Kate Lomax tells us Thomson Celebration will still call on Safaga on February 7, but visits to Luxor are canceled. Calls on Port Shokna (for Cairo) will be replaced with calls on Eilat on February 8 and 9, with shore excursions to Jerusalem and Bethlehem offered. We are currently awaiting an update on other itineraries.
Discover Egypt: The line has announced in a statement that it will resume all Egypt calls as originally scheduled, beginning February 28.
Titan HiTours: Titan tours to Egypt were canceled through February 2, and those currently in Egypt have been transported back to the U.K. We're awaiting information on the fate of subsequent sailings.
We're curious: Given the unrest in Egypt, will you return to the country or consider a cruise? Vote in our poll.
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor
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