Russia-Ukraine war hits cruise liners’ fortunes

Recovering from Covid-19, cruise liners face losses again
/ New Delhi
Russia-Ukraine war hits cruise liners’ fortunes

Norwegian Cruise Line had 50 sailings to Russia this year

Just as they were on their way to recovery from an unprecedented shock of Covid-19 pandemic that lasted two years, cruise liners are faced with another serious disruption due to Russia-Ukraine war as numerous cruise operators have announced changes in their itineraries, dropping St Petersburg, one of the most popular ports of call.
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Tourism industry especially in Europe has been disrupted by the Ukraine-Russia war just as it was hoping for a booming 2022 after two years of unprecedented difficulties due to Covid-19 pandemic. While several airlines have cut off their links with Russia and the Russian flag carrier Aeroflot has announced suspension of all its international flights from March 8, another blow to tourism industry came with the announcement of a string of cancellations by the cruise industry, a key segment of tourism in Europe.

A number of cruise operator have decided not to include any Russian ports in all their itineraries ever since the Russia-Ukraine war began. While Viking Cruises has stopped selling Russian sailings for the rest of the year 2022, a number of others including MSC, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise have cancelled calling at Russian ports, notably Saint Petersburg.

“We are deeply opposed to the unfolding conflict in Ukraine and are heartbroken for all the people who are impacted. On February 24 we cancelled all 2022 departures of our Ukraine river itinerary. On March 1 we made the decision to cease all operations in Russia in 2022. Therefore, we have cancelled all 2022 departures of our Russia river itineraries – and will replace scheduled stops in Russia for all 2022 ocean itineraries,” the German river cruise operator Viking said in a statement.

Royal Caribbean and its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises also both removed St Petersburg from their summer cruise programmes. “The safety of our guests and crew is always our top priority. We are continuously monitoring events taking place around the world, including the situation in Ukraine. With the recent events, we have made the decision to cancel our visits to St Petersburg, Russia, on all summer 2022 itineraries. We have planned alternative ports and will communicate itinerary changes in the next few days to our guests and travel partners,” the US-based Royal Caribbean said in a press release.

Almost simultaneously, MSC Cruises suspended calls by four of its ships at St Petersburg, citing security concerns, saying that its ships, MSC Preziosa, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Poesia and MSC Virtuosa will all halt scheduled stops at the Russian city this summer.

“Since the onset of the current events the line has been in touch with alternative ports – such as Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallinn – to confirm calls for the four vessels and it will communicate the exact details for each individual sailing as soon as possible to travel agents and any customers affected by the new arrangements,” the line said in a statement.

Meanwhile, another major player in cruise tourism, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings that owns NCL, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Oceania Cruises, has also removed St Petersburg from its cruises this summer, impacting as many as 50 sailings in the year.

“Due to the escalated situation between Russia and Ukraine we have made the decision to modify the course of your upcoming voyage and will be removing St Petersburg, Russia from the itinerary,” the cruise line said.

“We are currently working to confirm a revised itinerary and will provide updates once we have more information.”

CEO Frank Del Rio said the move was “disappointing” because St Petersburg “is one of the crown jewels of the Scandinavia itineraries.”

Princess Cruises says it was modifying itineraries on 24 cruises that had planned to call on St Petersburg with alternative ports.  Replacement ports will vary by itinerary, including destinations such as Stockholm and Visby, both in Sweden, as well as Gdansk in Poland. Also in the list is Carnival Cruises that has decided to modify its itineraries.

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