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Turkey Ports A Victim Of Fear

We’ve never been on a cruise ship that stopped in Turkey. Now, chances are we never will. Such is the cruise climate in this volatile part of the world, even though Istanbul and Kusadesi aren’t in the same area code as places bordering on Syria, where there are daily fears of terrorist attacks.

On the weekend, Crystal Cruises announced Turkey was persona non grata. The Crystal Symphony was scheduled to call at the two popular Turkish ports in late April and early May, but not now. The itineraries have been revised due to the “safety and peace of mind Espritof our guests” and the Symphony will make two more stops in Greece instead. The same goes for Crystal Esprit, a future ship (above) with itineraries that were going to include Turkey. The same goes for Disney cruises that once included Istanbul.

If there’s any irony in this, it’s that avoiding Turkey isn’t exactly the antidote for safety. It’s true that a suicide bomber killed 10 German tourists in Istanbul this month, an act that was obviously the trigger for Crystal’s decision. It’s also true that tourists have either been murdered or in danger of being murdered in Tunisia, and in Paris.

Tourists feel danger everywhere, because murderous attacks strike fear in the hearts and minds of the free world’s population. But it’s all about playing the odds, isn’t it? And in a country that’s geographically close to the troubled Middle East, the odds of being a victim seem higher.

Such is life in today’s world.

In the news…

• Sea trials completed for Holland America Koningsdam
• More Australians than ever booking cruises on P&O ships

Today at portsandbows.comTwo ships coming for Emerald Waterways

Star Princess
7 nights
May 14, 2016
Vancouver (return): Sitka, Glacier Bay, Juneau, Ketchikan
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $99

Checking On Terrorism And Cruising

Time for a sobering reality check.

A couple of weeks ago, a PhD named Thomas Williams authored an article for the Reuters News Agency about terrorism and cruise ships. Drawing on reports from the Italian Ministry of Defence, he pointed out that the newest terrorist threat is to Mediterranean cruise ships, now that ISIS has become a stronghold in Libya, on the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and only about 200 miles from Italy.

According to the Italian report:

“Having gained control of some ports and of vessels of various descriptions and with the possibility of taking advantage of the experience accumulated by the people traffickers working the migratory routes for years, ISIS could repeat the scenario that has dominated the maritime region between Somalia and Aden for the last ten years. Speed boats Securitycould attack fishing boats, cruise ships, small merchant ships, as well as coast guard…in this case more to capture prisoners to exhibit in orange jumpsuits and a knife to the neck [and to ask for lucrative ransoms for them].”

The cruise ships the author mentioned as targets are specifically ones that sail north up the Italian coast to the south of France…

We are just back from a Mediterranean cruise. The ship, the Costa Diadema, went north up the Italian coast to the south of France.

Did we dodge a bullet? Maybe.

On the other hand, the chances of “pirates” in speed boats overtaking a cruise ship are slim to none. That’s not to say they couldn’t do significant damage to cruise ships with suicide bombers.

It seemed reasonable to inquire of Costa officials about how they — as a popular Mediterranean cruise line — assure passengers of safety on the ship. The response was that there is more security on and around cruise ships than people are aware of, which is consistent with what all cruise line people say.

The reality is there are no guarantees that terrorism won’t strike a cruise ship, just as there are no guarantees it won’t strike a shopping mall, or a sports event, or a concert, or a zoo.

That’s not just in the Mediterranean, it’s anywhere.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Norwegian Epic
11 nights
April 19, 2015
Miami, Funchal, Barcelona
Balcony: $599
Cost per day: $54

Copenhagen: ‘Hassle Free’ Still Applies?

In view of what happened in Copenhagen this weekend, and the understandable security fears fueled by murder, you have to wonder what impact the events will have on the little bit of good news for cruisers going to Denmark.

This month, travel officials in the Danish capital announced it would now be possible for people to say good-bye to their luggage before disembarking from a cruise ship and not Copenhagensee it again until arriving at Copenhagen Airport. There is a fee for doing this, of course, and passengers have to be booked on outgoing flights to qualify.

“This offers ‘hassle-free’ travel for our cruise passengers, enhancing their cruise experience on arrival in Copenhagen,” says Claus Bodker, Cruise Copenhagen network director. “Though already operational in the U.S., I believe Copenhagen is Europe’s first airport to provide such a travel service of convenience.”

The decision followed trial runs with Princess, Holland America and Scandinavian Airlines.

Maybe the decision will stand. People pay. Trusted handlers pick up and deliver bags. Either cruise lines or airlines accept responsibility for baggage moving from the port to the airport. However, terrorism in a country now on “high alert” has a way of destroying even the best ideas, doesn’t it?

Today at portsandbows.com: Disney Fantasy — That's Star Wars

Norwegian Jade
7 nights
April 18, 2015
Rome, Naples, Messina, Kotor, Zadar, Venice
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

Black Sea Off Limits For Cruisers

There’s fighting going on a world away and you never think it will affect you…and then it does. Maybe you’re scheduled to cruise into the Black Sea, for instance. As a long-ago U.S. President would say: “Not gonna happen.”

Cruising into the Black Sea is becoming more rare all the time. The latest cruise lines to cancel are Cunard and P&O. Both have canceled all 13 ports calls for 2015, because of rising security concerns…i.e., fighting. They have been preceded by Azamara, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Windstar, MSC and Holland America.

The safety rule of thumb these days is to cruise as far as Istanbul, Turkey and take a pass on the Black Sea, which is between Turkey and Ukraine, two countries currently involved in conflicts. 

Where will it end?

The two most popular cruise ports in Turkey are Istanbul and Kusadasi. Both are far from the Syrian border, where security concerns are magnified. Both are on the fringe of the Mediterranean cruise map. Both are relatively safe…for now.

As terrorism re-shapes the world, especially in the Europe-Asia corridor, so too does it re-shape the cruising world.

Fifty years from now…who knows?

Today at portsandbows.com: Scenic Cruises to Bordeaux

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
7 nights
December 7, 2014
Port Canaveral (return):  LabadeeFalmouthGeorge TownCozumel
Inside: $329
Cost per day: $47

New Threats To Cruise Passengers

This is one of those stories we don’t want to tell, and shouldn’t have to tell, but there is really no choice.

It’s about terrorists.

You know how your life has changed when boarding planes, with security personnel checking everything but the dirt under your fingernails? You know how when you’re walking the streets of a big city, or even a small town, you’re supposed to be aware not just of your surroundings but also the people who inhabit them? You know how in the interests of public safety, you have to be suspicious of virtually everybody?

Well, shipmates, get ready.

According to the Associated Press, would-be jihadists are booking tickets on cruise ships. They’re using ships to get them to Turkey, specifically, so they can join the battles in Syria and Iraq. The news surfaced at an Interpol conference this week in Monaco and the conclusion was for accelerated screening at transportation hubs…”airports and, more and more, cruise lines.”

The intelligentsia say that the terrorists, because they know it’s getting tougher for them to board planes, are taking to the seas. A statement from Cruise Lines International Association, to which almost all cruise lines belong, maintained that cruise-ship security is taken as seriously as airline security, and that passengers manifests are shared with U.S. authorities.

What is left unsaid is the threat that these unwelcome jihadists will use cruise ships for more than transportation…instead, as a final destination.

Either way, that terrorists are known to be boarding ships is dreadful news for the passengers, and for the industry.

Today at portsandbows.com: Closer look at Royal Caribbean's new ship

Holland America Zaandam
14 nights
December 8, 2014
Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Port Stanley, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Cape Horn, Sarmiento Canal, Chilean Fjords, Puerto Montt, Santiago
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $42

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