Middle Eastern Ports of Call

| 09.17.12

With Anti-American sentiment growing, the question is whether local authorities can keep us safe

Sept. 11 protestors in Cairo Two cruise lines have already canceled calls in Middle East ports - Holland America's Ryndam was scheduled to call in La Goulette, the site of ancient Carthage near Tunis in Tunisia last week, but the stop was called off and substituted with a visit to the island of Sardinia instead.

Royal Caribbean cancelled an overnight stop in Alexandria, Egypt, last week as well. However, Royal Caribbean has future port stops scheduled for Alexandria, Egypt in the coming weeks and those arrivals have not yet been canceled. So far these two cruise lines are the only lines to specifically cancel stops in any Middle Eastern ports, but they are also the only major cruise lines who had calls scheduled there since the violence broke out on September 11th.

These cruise lines plan to monitor the situation and make decisions accordingly:

  • The Pacific Princess (Princess Cruise Line) is scheduled to start a cruise from Rome on September 21st that will call in Israel and spend two days in Egypt on September 29th.
  • Celebrity Cruises is scheduled to stop in both Israel and Egypt on a cruise sailing out of Rome on September 29.
  • Norwegian Jade (Norwegian Cruise Line) is scheduled to sail out of Rome on October 20st with a stop in Alexandria, Egypt. Later dates with the same itinerary sail on November 21 and December 12.

One cruise line; Voyages to Antiquity, had a cruise scheduled to not only Cairo, but also Safaga, Egypt, (a city on the Red Sea used as a gateway to Luxor, about 300 miles south of Cairo) and Sharm al Sheik (on the Sinai Peninsula). But that cruise was canceled two months ago in order to give the ship a cosmetic upgrade. A lucky coincidence for that cruise line.

What would you do - travel to Egypt or not?? Tell us here: OPen Topics Forum

Nile River Cruises Ongoing

Operators of river cruises on the Nile appear to be more confident, since the highlights of Nile cruises are about 300 miles south of Cairo. Abercrombie and Kent has a Nile River cruise currently underway where the guests first flew into Cairo to see the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities and then flew to Aswan to start a cruise of the river north to Luxor. These Nile cruises by A&K are scheduled to continue throughout 2012 and on into 2013.

That Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Cairo has become its own point of controversy.

On September 10th the Washington Post reported on licensed Egyptian tour guides who staged a protest at that museum to say there is not enough authoritative supervision for themselves or their clients at tourism sites by the new government of Mohammed Morsi. In another odd coincidence, that protest occured on September 10, just one day before the volatile demonstrations at our our embassy. The tour guides say they have been inundated by unlicensed vendors and competitors at the museum, the pyramids and even down in Luxor. The article continues:

"There is no security. This is not a joke," said Dina Yacoub, a 29-year-old guide who said she was punched in the face three times last month when an angry citizen tried to cut in line for a small train at the Cairo citadel and she protested. "We are asking tourists to come back ... how would they unless there is security?"

Yacoub's was one of at least 40 cases of assaults on tour guides reported to the professional union over the last year, said Gladys Haddad, a member of the union.

The new Morsi government says it supports tourism. Significantly, just last month the lower Nile river between Luxor and Cairo (the Nile is only major river in the world that runs south to north) was re-opened to cruising for the first time since 1994. A number of European travel writers took the lower river cruise (none of them were Americans). However, that part of the river was closed because of a number of historic tourist attacks including one incident in 1997 where Islamic militants killed 68 tourists visiting a temple just north (downriver) of Luxor.

What would you do - travel to Egypt or not?? Tell us here: OPen Topics Forum

Who to Believe?

As the recent protests indicate, the question is whether the new government has the authoritative power to secure the safety of visitors.

I think it is important to point out that there is a lot of conflicting information coming out of the media about these events. Of course, divergent opinions in our media is normal, but it is not normal to have different news organizations reporting entirely different versions of factual events.

My fear is that some outlets are expressing a one-sided view of the situation because of their own political preferences.

Many mainstream media outlets like ABC News are reporting a statement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, that the protests that occurred in Libya (next door to Tunisia) were not premeditated, indicating allegations that we were pre-warned were not accurate. But just two days earlier CNN reported a statement by a Libyan official who says he warned the U.S. of the danger as much as three days before the attack.

Popular American Travel Writer, Arthur Frommer, does not feel travel to Egypt is wise right now. However, a Huffington Post travel blogger who happened to meet with President Morsi on September 9th had a different point of view. She says Morsi is aware of the importance of tourism to Egypt and that he promised to do all he can. But she also noted that the protests are very specifically anti-American, and that the question is the ability of current government to control these protests. Furthermore, her meeting with Morsi was before the latest embassy attacks.

What Would You Do?

Personally, I would not book travel to Egypt under these circumstances, especially on a large cruise ship where it was obvious I am with a large group of Americans. Most of the larger cruise ships only stop in Alexandria to visit the Pyramids, and while this is an important place to see, it is not worth the risk.

If I had already paid for a cruise, however, I would still go. If the risk is still apparent then the cruise line will most likely replace the stop in Egypt with a safer port. If they do go into the post I suggest you dress down and remain very vigilant. And do not be surprised to see armed guards with rifles on the bus with you. I would be more worried if I did not see them.

What would you do - travel to Egypt or not?? Tell us here: OPen Topics Forum

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