A cruise through the Red Sea offers access to exotic locations in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And ports of call at Aqaba, Jordan provide access to the UNESCO city of Petra.
But tensions in the Red Sea over the last several weeks have caused shipping vessels and cruise ships alike to alter course, avoiding the region altogether.
Recent Houthi militant attacks on shipping vessels near Yemen have cast a shadow over the popular cruising route.
This has led to cruise ships taking a much longer voyage around Africa, as companies and operators prioritize safety.
Cruise Travel Through the Red Sea
While a Red Sea cruise is a dream for many travelers, its peak season with cruise lines typically begins in spring. This has allowed some companies to adopt a wait-and-see approach regarding itinerary adjustments as tensions in the region unfold.
The Suez Canal, a critical shortcut for world cruises, has also felt the impact.
Even before the current escalation, MSC Cruises made the decision to reroute their MSC Poesia mid-way through her 121-day World Cruise in early January, bypassing the Red Sea altogether.
Instead of sailing past ancient pyramids and vibrant reefs, Poesia charted a new course that went by Cape Verde and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic.
Cruise Lines Adjusting Itineraries
Silversea’s Silver Moon cut its Red Sea trip short, stopping early in Aqaba, Jordan, because of increased security concerns in the region. The ship, which was originally sailing from Aqaba to Muscat, Oman, with stops in Saudi Arabia, will now disembark passengers in Aqaba. The cruise line will be making further travel arrangements for the passengers.
This development adds to the growing tension surrounding Red Sea cruises amid recent maritime attacks near Yemen. While Silversea quickly altered its itinerary for passenger safety, there’s still some uncertainty over future sailings in the region, including those scheduled for February.
Future Uncertainty for Cruise Lines
Major cruise players like Carnival Corp. have remained somewhat silent about their contingency plans in the face of this geopolitical unrest.
During a recent earnings call, CEO Josh Weinstein stressed that passenger safety remains most important, with strategies in place should the situation escalate. However, specific decisions regarding the Red Sea and Suez Canal routes remain unconfirmed.
Other cruise lines that have plans to sail through the Red Sea over the next few months include Cunard, Seabourn, Fred Olsen, Holland America Line, Regent, Azamara, P&O Cruises and Princess.
Several cruise lines have made statements about the rising tensions in the Red Sea.
P&O Cruises: A spokesperson confirmed the cruise line is monitoring the situation on a daily basis, stating, “We will advise guests should any changes to the itinerary be necessary. The safety, security and wellbeing of guests and crew is our absolute priority.”
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines: Fred Olsen has a world cruise currently scheduled to sail through the Red Sea and Suez Canal in April but so far has not yet made any changes. The company stated, “We continue to have regular communication with the relevant authorities and evaluate all risks. In the event of an increased risk, we will of course implement our contingency itinerary.”
Cunard and Holland America: Both cruise lines noted they are closely monitoring the situation, with HAL adding they will inform guests of any updates “at the earliest opportunity.”
Geopolitical tension is one of several reasons a cruise line may choose to skip certain ports or completely alter the destination of a particular cruise.
The United States has increased naval presence in the region, conducting patrols and escorting commercial vessels to ensure safe passage. Despite these efforts, the uncertainty and risk associated with the Red Sea region remain high.