New Crimean war is threat to Black Sea cruises and could affect Baltic

/, Cruise News/New Crimean war is threat to Black Sea cruises and could affect Baltic

Events in Ukraine could have a huge effect on cruises to the Black Sea this summer. If some analysts are believed, the crisis could also have an impact in the Baltic.
Once reserved for intrepid adventurers, the region has opened up to mainstream ships in recent years as the Mediterranean and Aegean have become more crowded, and the Red Sea has been put off limits by Egypt’s political troubles.
The current Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to avoid all travel to the Crimea – the very region at the heart of Black Sea cruises.
“British nationals in Crimea should leave now. The FCO is not able to provide consular services to anyone choosing to remain,” adds the latest advice. “If you choose to remain, you should keep a low profile, avoid areas of protest or stand-off and stay indoors where possible.”
Doesn’t sound like the sort of place to take a cruise, does it?
Cruise lines have told me this week that with their ships not due to sail there for some weeks, they are watching developments closely. If necessary, they will amend itineraries.
But there’s not much opportunity to find alternative ports of call. With respect to places like Varna and Constanza, the destinations in Romania and Bulgaria, ithey are just the prelude to the main event. It’s Ukraine that everyone wants to visit.
Odessa, home of the Black Sea naval fleet, is a cosmopolitan city with a splendid opera house and the magnificent Potemkin Steps leading from the harbour to an impressive tree-lined boulevard above.
Sevastopol is the gateway for excursions to the Charge of the Light Brigade’s Valley of Death and the Cold War submarine pens at Balaclava recently discovered by Jeremy Clarkson and his Top Gear cohorts.
Yalta is the home of the Livadia Palace, venue in 1945 for the Churchill-Roosevelt-Stalin summit meeting that re-drew the map of Europe at the end of World War 2.
Cruising the Black Sea without visiting these ports would be like turning up at Wembley for the FA Cup Final and leaving after 15 minutes with the score still at 0-0.
While the cruise lines await developments, chances are they will be looking at sales figures that are moving nowhere.
Passengers who have already booked will be keeping an anxious eye on the FCO advice; if it remains as strong as it is now, they will be entitled to cancel and receive a full refund.
Customers thinking of taking a Black Sea cruise are unlikely to be foolhardy enough to put their money down now on such a risky endeavour.
Besides, if they hold off for a few weeks and the political situation does improve, there will be substantial discounts on offer as the cruise companies struggle to fill their ships.
The responses I have received from cruise lines with Black Sea itineraries show that they are thinking and working along the same lines.
Fred Olsen Cruise Line: “Currently, we have no firm plans to cancel or amend our Black Sea cruise on Balmoral in June 2014. We are, of course, monitoring the situation closely on a daily basis and we are working on contingency plans, such as an amended itinerary for this cruise, should this become necessary. The safety and well-being of all our guests and crew remains our utmost priority at all times.”
Celebrity Cruises: “Celebrity Constellation is not scheduled to call to ports in the Ukraine until September 2014. At this time, Celebrity Cruises has not changed the itinerary for sailings that include a port call to Ukraine. We will continue to closely monitor the and will contact guests or their travel agents should we make any modifications to any itineraries. The safety and security, of our guests and crew members is always foremost in our minds.”
Azamara Club Cruises: “While the Azamara Quest is scheduled to call to ports in the Ukraine on a voyage in June 2014, we have at this time not changed the itinerary. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in Ukraine and will contact guests or their travel agents should we make any modifications to the itinerary. The safety and security of our guests and crew members are always foremost in our minds.”
Other cruise lines have not yet responded.
A spokeswoman for CLIA UK added: “Each CLIA member line independently reviews the current security situation in the ports of call its ships visit. This includes information from government intelligence agencies and third-party sources.
“Additionally, CLIA member lines also share information regarding port security through CLIA’s standing Committee on Maritime Security Matters. When warranted, CLIA member cruise lines will post travel warnings on their web sites and provide written advisories to passengers. If necessary, CLIA member lines will not hesitate to bypass a port due to concerns regarding passenger security.”
In the US, Wells Fargo Securities have advised investors on the risks individual cruise lines face if the Ukraine conflict affects Black Sea cruises and also raises the question of whether Baltic Sea voyages could be affected by trade sanctions.
The Costa and AIDA brands – neither of which are big players in the UK market – threaten Carnival Corporation’s revenues, while MSC is the next most exposed. About 10 per cent of Royal Caribbean’s capacity could be affected, while Norwegian has about five per cent of its cruises in the region.
Wells Fargo also raises the question of whether Baltic Sea cruises visiting St Petersburg could be hit.
“Should trade sanctions be imposed against Russia, we believe itineraries that are either in the Black Sea or have Russian ports of call, for example, St. Petersburg, would be impacted,” Wells Fargo analyst Tim Conder said. In this scenario, it’s likely the Russian ports would be dropped from cruise routes.
Every line cruising from the UK has the Baltic among its itineraries, and most ships dock in St Petersburg for at least two nights. Any sanctions would have a huge impact on ex-UK cruises.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:27+00:00 5 March 2014|Cruise Destinations, Cruise News|2 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.


  1. Brian Mills 10 March 2014 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    I have recently booked a crimean discovery cruise with Thompsons. We have paid the deposit & the balance is due today. I have rung today to see if we could delay paying the balance until we are more aware of the itinery changes. I was told if we dont pay the full amount today the booking could be cancelled and we will lose our deposit.

  2. Margaret Ross 6 June 2014 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    Have cancelled Celebrity Black Sea and Greek islands cruise booked through Iglu travel. We had not paid full amount so cruise (20th Sept. –
    2nd Oct) was cancelled free of charge. We paid GBP 300 deposit do we get this refunded and if so when.

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