Cruise lines have scrambled to amend itineraries that were due to call in Ukraine and Russia in the coming weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded the neighbouring country.
Although demand for cruises globally is holding steady, despite renewed economic uncertainty, dozens of cruise itineraries that were due to call in Russia’s Northern European ports, and Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa, have been dropped.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises has confirmed that it will adjust itineraries and remove calls to Russian ports in 2022.
“The safety and security of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our top priority,” Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement to USA Today. “We are currently working to confirm replacement ports and will advise all impacted guests and travel advisors as soon as possible.”
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has no vessels scheduled to enter the region until late May, but appears to be planning ahead out of an abundance of caution.
The various packages of sanctions being applied by the United States, European Union and other nations will likely also impact the feasibility of cruising to or from Russia in the near future.
Viking and Atlas Ocean Voyages are also adjusting their itineraries, while Carnival Corporation says it is monitoring the situation carefully.
Cancelled Russian and Ukrainian port calls
Norwegian Cruise Line is removing planned stops in St. Petersburg from its 2022 sailings “due to the escalated situation between Russia and Ukraine.”
Regent Seven Seas Cruises plans to remove the Solovetsky Islands, Arkhangelsk, Murmansk and St. Petersburg, Russia, from its 2022 sailings, along with Odesa, Ukraine.
Oceania Cruises said it too would remove Russian and Ukrainian ports from its 2022 sailings, according to an emailed statement.
All three companies said they are working to confirm replacement ports and will advise impacted guests and travel advisers “as soon as possible.”
Atlas Ocean Voyages is adjusting two of its late-summer Baltic itineraries. Calls to St. Petersburg will be replaced by destinations in Finland and Estonia.
Viking, which operates both ocean and river cruises, has canceled all 2022 departures from its Kyiv, Black Sea and Bucharest itinerary.
Carnival Corporation, which owns nine global cruise lines, said it is monitoring the situation closely.
Known as Russia’s cultural capital and famous for its historic palaces and museums, St. Petersburg is considered the top attraction on any Baltic cruise. Cruise ships that sail in the region often dock in the city for two or three days of touring.
Impact on wider cruise industry
While the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been described as the most serious military crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War, sending global markets into evermore volatile territory, cruise bookings have largely held steady.
According to a range of views collected by Seatrade Cruise News, cruise retails have seen little impact on bookings, while Norwegian CFO Mark Kempa has said readjusting itineraries wont have a “huge impact” on the company.
Roughly 5% of its total capacity calls on St. Petersburg during the summer season, or about 50 sailings total, with “plenty of other ports in the Scandinavian region that [the company] can call on,” he said during an earnings call.
“You’ll probably see a little bit of slowdown here and there around the margin,” Kempa said regarding demand for cruises. “That’s normal. But it’s definitely too early to indicate if there’s going to be any longer-term effects.”
“This is affecting a very small portion of Europe. And there’s a lot of other areas that we can operate in,” he added.