Several eastern Mediterranean cruises use the exotic wonders of Egypt and Libya as major selling points on voyages. Unfortunately, recent violence and political turmoil in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya have caused many cruise lines to change ports of call or to cancel voyages entirely.
Cruise lines had recently jumped on the opportunity to add Libya as an exotic port of call on Mediterranean itineraries after the country began issuing visas to American tourists in 2010. Now, with the political uprising and subsequent US State Department travel warning, the same cruise lines are scrambling to reroute these trips. Small cruise company Voyages to Antiquity announced this month that it has canceled its first cruise of 2011, which was to sail via Libya from Athens to Rome. It was a stroke of bad luck for the company, as this voyage had originally been scheduled to stop in Egypt and Tunisia, but was rerouted to Libya due to Egypt’s political instability.
With travel warnings to Egypt remaining in effect, many cruise lines are scrambling to change routes rather than wait and see how the situation plays out. The majority of cruise lines have canceled stops in the region through the end of March, for fear of ending up like Viking River Cruises, who had to charter a plane to airlift 91 passengers out of Egypt when the unrest began. Costa, however, is staying the course by restoring cruising to Egypt after some tourist site warnings were lifted.
Considering the cost of last-minute changes and cancellations to itineraries, it will be interesting to see if the impact that these events have on the cruise industry are reflected in “safer” picks for the next season.