As cruise lines alter their itineraries to exclude Middle Eastern ports of call amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, passengers have been left unhappy with itineraries that no longer feature bucket-list destinations.
The case of two passengers booked to cruise with Oceania through the Red Sea from Istanbul to Dubai this month is instructive of the kind of disappointment many will be facing due to the cancellation of port calls in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Steven Alves and Jeff Hull were booked to cruise aboard Nautica of Oceania Cruises from Barcelona, Spain to Dubai in the UAE on November 18th. When the cruise line cancelled calls in Israel and the Red Sea, the itinerary was altered to focus more on Italy, with a week-long stretch at sea between the Suez Canal and Dubai.
The loss of Haifa, Safaga, Jeddah and Aqaba removed the very ports that had prompted the couple to book the cruise in the first place.
“We booked it for the itinerary,” said Alves, speaking to USA Today.
“It’s a horrible thing that’s going on,” added Hull, “but the cruise line should understand that you’re getting something completely different than what you bought.”
The couple is among several Oceania guests who have struggled to get refunds or compensation in the wake of drastic changes to planned sailings. Multiple guests said they felt locked into cruises they wouldn’t have chosen to take, according to USA Today.
Janet and Joe Sherwood have also struggled to get a refund on their US $20,000 cruise from Istanbul, Turkey to Dubai. It was meant to feature stops in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, but will also now feature a direct passage of one week from Suez to Dubai.
The roughly three-week sailing aboard Riviera, set to visit Haifa, Luxor, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, only retains about half of its original ports, including the start and end points.
“As all of our itinerary changes were carefully evaluated with the guest experience in mind, the revised voyages feature culturally rich and historically significant ports across Italy, Greece and Turkey, full of UNESCO World Heritage sites, unique culinary experiences and cultural treasures,” Carlos Ortega, Vice President, Global Guest Services, Oceania said in an email to the Sherwoods.
“It’s a terrible situation, and I certainly feel sorry for the people who are living there and having to deal with this. It’s just horrible,” said Janet. “But I feel like that really doesn’t affect the decision (Oceania made on how to handle) this.”
Janet said the trip cost more than they would normally spend but included destinations like Israel and Egypt, where she had wanted to go for years.
The contracts guests agree to when they book a cruise are very cruise line friendly, and do not require cruise lines to issue compensation for dramatically altered itineraries. Cruise line do typically offer such compensation, in the form of a future cruise credit, as a goodwill gesture.
“We understand the disappointment these revisions may have caused but hope that our guests and travel partners share in the understanding that these circumstances are outside of anyone’s control,” Oceania Cruises said.