Passengers have expressed concern over security in Turkey, where some cruise lines are continuing to sail while others are pulling out.
Cruisers are particularly concerned that some lines may consider imposing penalties on those that cancel following a spate of terror attacks this year in Turkey.
Passenger Penny Rector wrote on the Seabourn Facebook page, for instance: “Dear Seabourn, in light of the recent atrocity at Istanbul airport, those of us booked on Istanbul itineraries would appreciate the courtesy of a statement regarding your future intentions for these cruises either way. At present no one from Seabourn is talking to us and we don’t know what to think.”
Seabourn later responded: “(We are) closely monitoring the situation in Istanbul. The company analyzes information regarding safety and security from many sources, which includes liaising with government intelligence agencies and on-the-ground port security assessments. We are in the process of assessing other upcoming scheduled visits to Istanbul. We will provide an update once more information is available.”
Adding to the confusion are different warning levels being set by various foreign governments. Australia (see below) has warned Australians to stay away from Turkey, while the British Foreign Office and the American State Department has not been so forceful.
Cruise Passenger has compiled a list of who is doing what, but advises readers to contact their CLIA travel agent or cruise line for the latest updates.
Here’s our run down:
“After reviewing all of the available information and discussions with our Global Security team in Miami, we have decided to cancel all of Celebrity Cruises’ upcoming turns in Istanbul, Turkey, and replace them with Athens (Piraeus), Greece.
“This decision was made with the safety of our guests and crew at the forefront of our minds and in an abundance of caution. We realize this may have an impact on your travel plans and our team is working now on available alternative arrangements from this new port of embark and debarkation. We sincerely apologize for the impact on your cruise.”
“Following advice from the relevant authorities Cunard has taken the decision to remove Istanbul from the planned itineraries on Queen Victoria in July and August. The calls to Istanbul will be replaced by Thessaloniki (Greece’s second city) and an additional call to Volos (Greek mainland).
“A shore excursion programme for these new ports will be available in the next few days. Any shore excursions booked for Istanbul will be refunded. We apologise for any disappointment this change may cause, however, our first priority is always the safety and security of our guests and crew.”
Holland America Line
Holland America Line is assessing its schedule of Istanbul calls. There are no HAL ships slated to sail into Istanbul until July 23 (Eurodam).
“Should any decisions be made regarding itinerary changes, it will be closer to the scheduled call date and communicated with booked guests and their travel agents,” HAL said in a statement to a US newspaper.
Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas and Oceania
In January the parent company – Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings – of the above three lines announced it was cancelling all 61 calls scheduled for Istanbul and other Turkish ports.
Frank Del Rio, President and CEO of NCLH, said at the time: “It’s the right thing to do but we feel terrible about it. We’re hopeful by 2017 we will once again have the confidence to return to Turkey.”
“Princess Cruises will cancel the July 7 transit call of Royal Princess to Istanbul. The next transit call to Istanbul for Royal Princess is scheduled for July 28. That call, and the remaining Princess Istanbul transit calls in 2016 will be evaluated over the next couple of weeks and decisions will be made based on the then available information and circumstances at the time. The smaller Turkish transit ports such as Kusadasi will remain on the schedule for the present time.
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.”
“After a very careful and thorough review, Seabourn has decided to replace the July 2, 2016 turn port of Istanbul with Piraeus (Athens). Seabourn is closely monitoring the situation in Istanbul. The company analyses information regarding safety and security from many sources, which includes liaising with government intelligence agencies and on-the-ground port security assessments. We are in the process of assessing other upcoming scheduled visits to Istanbul. The safety of our guests and crew is our top priority.
“At the present time, all Uniworld river cruises are operating as scheduled. Uniworld and our local partners continue to monitor the situation in Turkey closely following the tragic events that occurred in Ataturk International Airport.
Should we need to revise travel arrangements for any Uniworld guests planning to visit Istanbul in the near future, we will notify individual guests and their travel agents as soon as possible.
Guests booked on any itinerary featuring Istanbul that departs within the next 60 days (through August 27, 2016) may re-book without penalty on any future 2016 or 2017 itinerary and departure date.
Guests with their own travel insurance who do not rebook, are advised to check with their policy provider for specific terms and conditions.”
Windstar has made a number of changes to sailings in Turkey, redirecting cruises to various Greek destinations.
Windstar is in the process of contacting all booked guests and their travel agents with details on cruise and travel itinerary changes and will assist with alterations to travel plans.
The Australian Federal government Smartraveller website has the following travel advice:
Ankara and Istanbul – reconsider your need to travel. Think seriously about whether you need to travel here due to the high level of risk. If you do travel, do your research and take a range of extra safety precautions, including having contingency plans. Check that your travel insurer will cover you.
Turkey Overall – exercise a high degree of caution. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media about possible new safety or security risks.
Campbell Fuller from the Insurance Council of Australia told Cruise Passenger: “The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) suggests travellers who are concerned about their travel plans should contact their travel and accommodation providers to seek a refund, credit or alternative travel arrangements.
“It is a commercial decision for individual travel and accommodation providers whether or not to grant such requests. Travel insurance policies may not cover financial losses resulting from acts of terrorism.
“However some policies may provide cover under certain conditions for affected travellers who have already embarked on their trip. Each policy is different; travellers who are affected by the bombings or are considering cancelling their trip should contact their insurer for guidance.”