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Port of Odessa

Cruise lines and tourists still concerned about returning to Ukraine. Image: eAlisa/Shutterstock

Cruise lines and tourists are still reluctant to return the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’, with more than six operators still avoiding Ukraine’s major seaport, Odessa.

Earlier this year, the European country was on track to welcome 23.5 million tourists – 6.4 percent more tourists than in 2013.

Fast forward to July 2014, and the country’s peak tourism season has been hit by recently political clashes. And the World Travel and Tourism Council growth prediction is less likely to be achieved.

Despite Odessa Port Authority issuing a statement assuring that operations are “absolutely safe for inbound/outbound vessels”, six cruise lines have amended their itineraries to the avoid the region this year.

The latest is Viking Cruises, which this week confirmed it has cancelled all Ukraine sailings for 2014.

Vice president of operations, Richard Marnell, told Cruise Passenger in an email that the decision was made as a result of continued tension on the ground combined with travel warnings and questions over visa requirements for Crimea.

“We were not confident we could deliver our standard high-quality experience in the near future,” he said.

“We are still hopeful for a peaceful resolution in the region, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely and will be weighing many different factors – including the success of the new itinerary – as we plan for the 2015 sailing season.”

Viking will instead deploy its Viking Sineus on a new 12-day itinerary between Bucharest and the Black Sea.

Silversea has also removed Ukraine from four of its Black Sea itineraries scheduled to depart between July and October.

General manager and director of sales and marketing Karen Christensen said guests’ wellbeing is a high priority and new itineraries eliminated any uncertainty.

The three cruises were aboard Silver Spirit and one aboard Silver Cloud, will bypass the country and make calls at alternative ports.

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Regent Seven Seas said it would replace Ukraine and Crimea in a number of itineraries with Batumi, Georgia; Trabzon, Turkey; and Constanta, Romania.

Windstar replaced the two destinations with visits to Amasra and Samsun in Turkey.

Celebrity Cruises has also rerouted its three Black Sea itineraries to avoid the region, with cruises now calling into Turkey, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and Grace.

Holland America has also removed visits to Crimea for the rest of the year and earlier this year MSC rearranged its itineraries to avoid the region.