(3:45 p.m. EST) -- In response to the ongoing unrest in the Middle East and Africa, MSC Cruises
has canceled all calls to Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain through the end of the 2011-2012 winter cruise season.
The move may seem premature, especially with cruise lines already beginning to return to Egypt. However, MSC spokeswoman Julianne Carelli explains the cancellations, saying, "As many of our guests book far in advance, we wanted to ensure they felt secure in knowing we have taken their safety into account. MSC planning is seasonal, so we planned for the entire winter season in Europe, which extends through March of 2012."
She adds that the company will continue to monitor the situation and will resume calls to these ports when it feels it's safe.
MSC had previously canceled all Egypt cruises through December and Tunisia cruises through mid-October. Visits to Jerusalem
, Heraklion, Haifa
, Valletta, Messina and/or Taormina will replace stops at Cairo
. Calls to La Goulette, Tunisia
, will be swapped for calls to Cagliari, Valletta or Rome. And for MSC's new Arabian Gulf cruises, launching in November, Ras al Khaimah, U.A.E., will be substituted for Bahrain.
--by Erica Silverstein, Features Editor