(12 p.m. EST) — With global fears about terrorism still influencing travel, cruise lines have been eyeing itineraries that include Turkey, with some canceling planned port stops in 2016.
Crystal, Disney and MSC Cruises have already announced that they will not stop in Turkey in 2016; Celebrity Cruises has canceled overnights in Istanbul. Today, the three lines that fall under Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings – Norwegian Cruise Lines, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas — said they were suspending all calls to Turkey in 2016 as well.
The cancelation by Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings’ three lines — affecting 61 itineraries total — did not come without a lot of thought. At an event in Miami this week, CEO Frank Del Rio called it “one of the toughest decisions” he’s ever had to make, itinerary-wise.
“Turkey is very dear to our hearts,” he said. “When Turkey and the Greek Islands are calm and collected, it’s the best destination for us,….but given what has happened to Turkey over the last several months, and with all the intelligence that we subscribe to, we believe that the correct course of action is to not call on Turkish ports for 2016.”
Because the first sailing to Turkey isn’t until April, passengers will have a chance to cancel, Del Rio said. Passengers who are inside cancellation will be allowed to move bookings to another itinerary.
The United States has not issued a travel alert or warning for Turkey; while the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office has travel alerts against certain parts of the country, they are not valid for the cruise ports along the coast. Suicide bombers killed 10 German tourists in the heart of Istanbul’s tourist area Sultanahmet Square on January 12.
Cruise Critic has reached out to the lines that have port stops in Turkey in 2016. Here are their responses:
Azamara Club Cruises: “Azamara Club Cruises has decided to replace its two calls to Istanbul, Turkey with visits to Athens, Greece, due to low guest demand and interest. This change will allow our guests to continue with the planned vacations in a seamless fashion, now embarking or debarking in Athens, Greece.”
Celebrity Cruises: “In September 2015, Celebrity announced it will replace all overnights to Istanbul, Turkey in 2016 with additional ports of call. We are closely monitoring the situation; at this time, we have not made any modifications to sailings that visit Istanbul beyond 2016. Our decision-making process will always be driven by our concern for the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew members.”
Celestyal Cruises: “At this stage our Aegean itinerary planning for 2016 has not changed.”
Costa Cruises: No changes are planned.
Crystal Cruises: The April 24 sailing of Crystal Symphony will replace ports calls to Istanbul and Kusadasi with stops in the Greek ports of Souda Bay/Chaina, Navplion (overnight), Hydra and Athens (overnight). Replacing the two Turkish ports on the ship’s May 1 itinerary will be Athens (overnight), Patmos and Rhodes. For both sailings, pre-reserved shore excursions in Istanbul and Kusadasi will be automatically canceled and refunded.
Turkish ports of call scheduled for Crystal Esprit in April and November will also be changed, but new itineraries have not yet been finalized.
Cunard Line: “In line with advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), we currently have no plans to remove our calls to Istanbul, Turkey. We continue to monitor the situation very closely and as our passenger safety is paramount, if the situation deteriorates, we will reconsider these itineraries.”
Disney Cruise Line: Disney has changed the planned stops for its Disney Magic’s Mediterranean cruises. Ports dropped include Kusadasi in Turkey; Athens and Mykonos in Greece and Valletta in Malta. Instead, the ship will visit Livorno (for Florence) and Villefranche (for Monte Carlo and Nice).
Fred. Olsen: “We take the position of changing our itineraries based on Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website recommendations. If there is any change in the FCO’s advice regarding Turkey, we will immediately look to alter our itineraries.”
Holland America Line: No changes planned.
MSC Cruises: The line has suspended calls by MSC Magnifica to Istanbul and Izmir, replacing them with Athens and Mykonos from March 26th until the end of the Mediterranean cruise season in October.
Norwegian Cruise Line: The line has suspended calls to Turkey in 2016. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation and make future itinerary adjustments as appropriate. We have begun the process of informing guests booked on the affected cruises of the itinerary changes and will update the respective brand websites with revised voyage information.”
Oceania Cruises: The line has suspended calls to Turkey in 2016. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation and make future itinerary adjustments as appropriate. We have begun the process of informing guests booked on the affected cruises of the itinerary changes and will update the respective brand websites with revised voyage information.”
Princess Cruises: Princess Cruises has made no changes to its itineraries. In a statement, the line said: “The safety and security of our guests and crew is our highest priority and our security department, staffed with former military, intelligence and law enforcement professionals, maintains close contact with governmental authorities, local law enforcement agencies and private sources for security assessments and information and continues to monitor alerts worldwide. We will advise guests and our travel consultant partners should the need arise to make changes to any of our published itineraries.”
Regent Seven Seas: The line has suspended calls to Turkey in 2016. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation and make future itinerary adjustments as appropriate. We have begun the process of informing guests booked on the affected cruises of the itinerary changes and will update the respective brand websites with revised voyage information.”
Royal Caribbean International: “We are closely monitoring the situation in Turkey; at this time, Royal Caribbean International has not made any modifications to any upcoming sailings that visit Turkish ports.”
Saga Cruises: “We do have a cruise with Turkish ports of call. We’ve not amended the itinerary, but are monitoring the situation and will as always follow FCO advice.”
Thomson Cruises: “FCO advice hasn’t changes so our programme remains as is.”
Viking Ocean: No changes.