Cruise Lines Slowly Trickle Back to Tunisia

May 6, 2011
Tunisia Updated: August 3, 2011: MSC Cruises has restored North African ports of call in Tunisia, but those in Egypt and Bahrain remain cancelled due to continued political unrest. In July, MSC Fantasia and MSC Lirica returned to La Goulette, while MSC Splendida and MSC Sinfonia returned to Tunis.

MSC Splendida is scheduled to call at Tunis this December and March 2012 as part of a seven-night cruise from Genoa.

An as-yet-unnamed port will replace Egypt for the remaining summer season and also for winter 2011-12 sailings.

MSC Cruises also announced that a call to Khasab, Oman, will replace one set for Bahrain this winter.
(2:38 p.m. EDT) -- Cruise ships called on Tunisia last week for the first time in three months, following bouts of political and social unrest in the country.

According to Maha Ben Slimane, a contact for the port of Tunis (La Goulette), Holland America's Eurodam and AIDA's AIDAbella were the first to visit the area since several lines began altering itineraries months ago to avoid it. Welcome festivities featured music, roses and even a flash mob of locals.

Although the unrest has largely subsided, the U.S. Department of State still has a travel alert in effect for Tunisia, which warns that things like work stoppages and demonstrations could prove bothersome or dangerous for tourists. The region's curfew has also been lifted, but the alert says it could be reinstated at any time.

Of the lines that previously canceled stops at Tunisian ports, only one -- Louis Cruise Lines -- has said it plans to return for its fall/winter season. Holland America, which had no previous calls scheduled there this year, will proceed with its future stops in Tunis as planned, says line spokesperson Melissa Mefford. Read on for details on lines that will continue to avoid Tunisia calls.

Costa: A statement from Costa representative Buck Banks affirms that the line has canceled all calls in Tunisia. On Mediterranean sailings, passengers will now visit Palma de Mallorca, Malta or Cagliari (Sardinia) instead of Tunisia. 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.

Disney Cruise Line: Disney Magic will not be calling in Tunis during its upcoming Mediterranean season from May to September. The regularly scheduled calls in Tunis will be replaced with calls in Palermo, Italy. "We continually evaluate our itineraries and the decision to modify this itinerary was made in part due to the changing political environment in Tunis and the recent travel alert issued by the U.S. Department of State," said Disney spokeswoman Christi Erwin Donnan.

MSC Cruises: Until the situation in Tunisia stabilizes, MSC Cruises ships will not call at Tunis and instead take alternate itineraries. Although MSC has not revealed the substitute ports yet, the affected ships are MSC Fantasia (April 16 to October 15 sailings), MSC Splendida (April 10 to November 6), MSC Lirica (April 18 to October 7) and MSC Sinfonia (June 4 to October 15).

SeaDream Yacht Club: SeaDream has revised the itinerary for SeaDream II's May 18 cruise, sailing roundtrip from Rome. Instead of visiting La Goulette (Tunis), the ship will visit Xlendi on Gozo Island, Malta. In a company statement, SeaDream's president Bob Lepisto said, "Based upon the tension in Tunisia, we feel the safety and security there remains uncertain. For that reason, we have elected not to call on the port of La Goulette (Tunis), Tunisia."

Voyages to Antiquity: The line has announced that its scheduled North Africa sailings are currently on hold, according to line spokesperson Ann Brine. Voyages to Antiquity will review its decision prior to beginning its fall cruise season.

--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor