More Cruises Cancel Red Sea Electing to Deadhead Around Africa
The cruise industry is joining other sectors of the shipping market including tankers and LNG carriers in increasing the diversions away from the Red Sea. More cruise lines are canceling trips months in advance in part because of the travel requirements for passengers while the industry faces a bigger challenge to reroute vessels.
Silversea Cruises was the first to face the security challenges with its Silver Moon (40,700 gross tons) already in the Red Sea due to proceed to Dubai, India, and the Far East on a program scheduled to last till June, with a repositioning back to the Mediterranean. At the last minute, last week, the cruise line which is part of Royal Caribbean Group rerouted a week-long cruise that was to have gone from Jordan to Oman after many passengers had already arrived in Jordan. The cruise was rerouted to stay in the northern Red Sea.
Passengers however received a letter on Saturday from Captain Luigi Rutigliano saying, “Due to the recent military action that has resulted in escalated tensions in the region, we do not feel it is safe at this time to continue to Aqaba (Jordan).” The ship was due to be at sea that day and spend the following two days in Safaga, Egypt, before ending the cruise in Jordan. Instead, the ship turned north to transit the Suez Canal and disembarked passengers today at Piraeus, Greece.
“We have canceled Silver Moon’s voyages between Muscat and Dubai, scheduled from January 16 to January 26, and Dubai and Mumbai, scheduled from January 26 to February 11,” Silversea writes in a statement to The Maritime Executive. “The voyage between Mumbai and Singapore, scheduled between Feb 11 and Feb 29, is currently scheduled to proceed as planned.”
The cruise line did not respond to how the ship would reach India, but the vessel left Greece this evening turning west in the Mediterranean. Her AIS signal shows the next port as Malta, suggesting Silver Moon will reroute around the west of Africa traveling. In addition to the cost of the diversion and missing a month of operations with a capacity for 600 passengers on each cruise, Silversea is providing a 20 percent discount future cruise credits to passengers and refunding expenses for air and travel.
MSC Cruises, another division of the MSC Group which has already begun rerouting its containerships, now reports it is also canceling three repositioning cruises set for April that would have taken passengers through the Suez Canal. The company already rerouted its world cruise that left Italy at the beginning of January with a convoluted itinerary. Now repositioning trips for the MSC Splendida (138,000 gross tons), the MSC Opera (65,600 gross tons), and the MSC Virtuosa (181,500 gross tons) from South Africa and the United Arab Emirates to Europe in April are canceled impacting possibly as many as 11,600 passengers if the ships were full. Instead, MSC will deadhead the ships back to the Mediterranean saying “there were no viable alternative itineraries.”
With the security situation remaining unstable, problems will be mounting for the cruise industry as world cruises come to an end in the spring and ships reposition from Asia and the Middle East to Europe. Silversea for example is scheduled to start a cruise in February from Cape Town which reaches Dubai in March and then proceed to Piraeus on the Silver Spirit (39,500 gross tons with a capacity for 600 passengers). Another line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises has its cruise ship Seven Seas Mariner (48,000 gross tons with capacity for 696 passengers) scheduled to transit the Red Sea in mid-April. Holland America Line, Costa, and Cunard are some of the companies also scheduled for Red Sea passages.
The cruise lines are saying safety for passengers and crew is their top priority while reporting they are monitoring the situation closely in the Red Sea.