Cruising into the New Year

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

We’ve recently had a few comments about cruise ships changing their itinerary, often at short notice. People have complained that they ‘only booked that particular cruise because it was going to Florence/Athens/Tripoli. And yes, I do mean Tripoli in Libya.  Why do ships change the route, and what are the consequences?

There are three main reasons for changing ports of call – official advice, weather conditions, and unforeseen circumstances.

The Foreign Office (www.fco.gov.uk) offers advice to all British travellers on going anywhere in the world. For instance, the latest bulletin on travelling to Libya is:

“Since March 3, we have advised against all travel to Libya. However in the light of the improving security situation on the ground the FCO has decided to change our Travel Advice to advise against all but essential travel to Zuwara, Az Zawiya, Tripoli, al Khums, Zlitan and Misrata, and the coastal towns from Ras Lanuf to the Egyptian Border, including Benghazi.  We still advise against all travel to all other areas of Libya.

Any British national thinking of travelling to Libya should take care and check our Travel Advice regularly. It is also important to note that the British Embassy in Tripoli is only able to provide limited consular assistance at present, but we do plan to deploy additional staff when the situation allows”.

All the cruise line head offices are in constant communication with all the relevant Foreign Offices, embassies and consulates, and will advise their captains accordingly. This advice takes into account local conditions such as general strikes (in the case of Athens, recently, when Arcadia changed her plans to go there), and civil unrest (when locals were protesting in Alexandria in Egypt during a trial in October, and ship excursions were curtailed)

Changes due to weather conditions usually mean that the sea is too rough for the captain to either enter the port in the first place, or to leave it once safely berthed. He has to take into account not only any damage to an extremely expensive vessel, but more importantly, in cruise company minds, the safety of the passengers. No-one wants to have a Medical Department full of people with broken bones due to the ship tossing, turning and lurching while trying to keep to the prescribed course. Again, this is unfortunate when passengers have banked their hopes in reaching a certain port, but overall passenger safety and comfort overrides the hopes of a few.

Unforeseen circumstances are the very rare events that no one wants to even consider! Severe illness on board, unrepairable damage, etc.

What happens when a ship itinerary is changed? In almost every case, the captain will change course for an alternative port. The cruise line staff will be rushing round negotiating new berthing arrangements, calculating lost revenues and increased fuel costs, organising new excursions, and refunding pre-booked excursion payments onto passenger accounts while the passengers stroll round on board discussing the effect on their holiday. Devastating in the case of the Australian honeymooners desperate to see Florence, annoying in the case of wine buffs wanting to buy port in Oporto, but just interesting in the case of the majority of passengers who get to see somewhere quite unexpected! (Nafplion instead of Athens, Cadiz instead of Oporto on our most recent trip.)

It is always a possibility that you might visit an unexpected port. But your cruise company will usually be sympathetic to your comments. It’s just that sometimes it’s out of their hands.

 

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