Watching from a comfortable berth on a cruise ship in the Gulf as mass protests seem to be about to usher in world-changing events, it can be difficult to appreciate the enormity of what is happening in Egypt.
I am visiting states run by benevolent rulers – whose coffers are filled by the Western demand for oil – who guarantee their futures by providing their grateful subjects with free homes, free education, free healthcare . . . and as I discovered today, petrol at 30p a litre
While my ship, Brilliance of the Seas, sails on to Muscat, passengers on Thomson Celebration spent Monday sunbathing on the beach at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik instead of being driven by coach to see the sights of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings.
The schedule changes also meant that on Tuesday they made an unscheduled call at the Israeli port of Eilat, instead of the planned stay at Port Sokhna and excursions to Cairo.
While holidaymakers booked into hotels and Nile cruises are seeing their Egyptian holidays cancelled, or subject to curfew from mid-afternoon, at least those on board ship can move elsewhere. Despite the unrest in the rest of Egypt, Sharm is still considered safe for tourists.
A Thomson spokesman told me: “Thomson Cruises is closely monitoring the situation in Egypt and the impact to the Thomson Celebration’s Red Sea Magic itinerary.
“The ship completed the first section of the itinerary, Jordan, without any changes. On Sunday, Thomson Celebration then sailed to Port Sokhna where she refuelled before sailing on to Sharm el Sheikh where passengers enjoyed an afternoon in the beach.
“She docked in the Israeli port of Eilat, not part of the original itinerary, on Tuesday.
“The situation in Egypt has meant that changes to the itinerary have unfortunately had to be made, including the cancellation of the excursions to Cairo and the pyramids, plus Hurghada and Luxor. However, we remain in the position to be flexible with our offering and adapting the itinerary on a daily basis to best suit the needs of our customers.
“All customers on board are being kept fully updated of the situation and news from the ship is that they are all enjoying their Cruise, which is scheduled to end on Thursday.
We understand that these changes can be disappointing to our customers, but in this type of situation they are unavoidable.”
Costa Crociere has announced it is cancelling all cruise ship calls in Egypt and Tunisia until further notice. Costa Allegra and Costa Marina, both on week-long Red Sea itineraries out of Sharm el Sheikh, were meant to call at Safaga and Sokhna, but the ships will now turn round at Aqaba, and the only port on the itineraries to survive is Eilat.
- MSC has dropped calls in Alexandria for the MSC Splendida and MSC Magnifica, and NCL’s Norwegian Jade is going to Istanbul instead of Alexandria.