Fearing Long-Term Problems in Red Sea, Cruise Lines Change Plans

Virgin cruise ship Australia
Virgin Voyages has canceled its entire 2024-2025 Australia cruise season, citing the problems in the Red Sea (Virgin Voyages)

Published Feb 27, 2024 4:59 PM by The Maritime Executive


The cruise industry is starting to rethink its plans into 2025 as increasingly they believe the problems in the Red Sea will persist. It is a view shared by the commercial shipping industry, but with travelers making vacation plans cruise lines need to think longer term to reduce disruption to their schedules and inconvenience to their passengers.

“Based on the regional and government advice we have received, we remain very concerned about potential escalations in the Red Sea over the next 12 months,” Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages wrote in a new announcement. “This significant and ongoing conflict puts unacceptable risks for safe passage through the region for our sailors (passengers), crew, and vessel (Resilient Lady). As a result, we have been left with no choice but to cancel our 2024/25 voyage season plans for Resilient Lady.”

While the cruise industry is working on a longer time horizon to aid travelers in their planning, the underlying concern is shared broadly. Reuters reports that Maersk's head of North America, Charles van der Steene is advising the carrier’s customers, "Be prepared for the Red Sea situation to last into the second half of the year and build longer transit times into your supply chain planning."

Virgin Voyages highlights that it recently had to reroute the repositioning of the cruise ship Resilient Lady after its inaugural season in Australia. Based on the uncertainties, the cruise line has decided to entirely cancel its 2024/2025 season in Australia, impart because of the potential problems with the repositioning cruises that would transit the Red Sea. The Resilient Lady will now complete her Mediterranean sailing season on October 20, 2024, and divert course sailing to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a replacement Caribbean season for the 2024-2025 winter season.

“To say that we are disappointed to have come to this tough conclusion is an understatement,” says Virgin Voyages. “These adjustments are happening now in order to minimize potential future disruption to our passengers' holiday plans knowing there is a high likelihood that changes would need to happen in the future…  We are currently working through options to return to Australia and the Asia Pacific region once regional repositioning opportunities become more tenable.”

Norwegian Cruise Line is taking a similar move writing to travelers with reservations and travel agents, “We have been monitoring the situation in the Red Sea and despite our best hopes that it would de-escalate, we have made the decision to alter published itineraries scheduled to transit through the region.”

The cruise line is canceling sailings for the Norwegian Dawn and the Norwegian Sky between October and December 2024. They appear to be planning to deadhead both ships into position in the Indian Ocean and Middle East reducing their published itineraries in November and December 2024.

MSC Cruises is also changing its 2024-2025 program for the cruise ship MSC Opera. Scheduled for the Red Sea and Middle East, the cruise ship will now spend the winter season in the Canary Islands. The cruise line announced it will be substituting a program of 7-night itineraries with six ports of call between November 2024 and March 2025.