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Classic Holy land cruises are avoiding stops in Egypt

Egyptian Turmoil Affects Cruises

By Paul Motter

The turmoil in Egypt is causing many cruise operators to cancel their itineraries in Egypt.

NCL's Norwegian Jade and two ships from MSC Cruises, the Magnifica and the Splendida, each canceled stops in Alexandria this week and have rerouted their ships to various places. Norwegian Jade rerouted to Istanbul while MSC cruises added stops in Israel.

The cruise stops in Alexandria are for the purpose of seeing the pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza, a few hours' drive from the port near the lower Nile.

The middle Nile River is another large tourist attraction as the location for the Valley of the Kings and Luxor. Most cruises on the Nile River have been cancelled as well, especially for Americans who have been officially advised not to go to Egypt. In fact, many Americans are currently being evacuated.

While Americans were advised to evacuate already, this week the media is reporting that some 30,000 British tourists are still in Egypt. The word is that large British tour operators such as Thomas Cook are still taking visitors to Red Sea resorts like Sharm el Sheik and Safaga.

However, there are still many Germans, Australians and British citizens in the Nile region of Egypt, but flights into the region (Luxor airport) are being cancelled while flights out of the region continue.

Sharm el Sheik is on the Sinai Peninsula inside the Red Sea but is physically very isolated from the cities of Cairo and Alexandria. Safaga, however, is located on the Egyptian mainland on the Red Sea, just over the mountains from the Middle Nile, and is often used as a drop off point for tourists to drive to the Valley of the Kings and Luxor. These excursions have been cancelled.

Without a doubt these uprisings will influence cruising, but the largest problem may occur if the uprisings create unrest within the Suez Canal. The canal connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, and is vital in order to reach Dubai, India or China from Europe. The only other route requires sailing around Africa. The canal is only 100 miles long, has no locks since it goes through an essentially flat desert and is not even wide enough to allow two-way traffic.

The canal is also vital to Holy Land cruises that offer the ancient city of Petra, accessible from the Red Sea city of Amman, Jordan, near Sharm el Sheik and just across the Red Sea from the southern entrance to the Suez Canal.

This is one of the most fascinating cruising regions in the world, one that was just beginning to reach its height of popularity with mainstream cruise lines for U.S. and European cruisers. Some operators are continuing to operate Nile Cruises, such as Sonesta, but we can't recommend booking such a cruise now due to an uncertain infrastructure including web outages. We tried to access the official site of the Suez Canal for this article and found it to be unreachable.

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