MSC Cruises, Europe’s largest cruise operator, is making radical changes to its winter season schedule due to the Israel-Hamas war and associated port restrictions.
At least six cruises affected
At least six vessels are affected: the MSC Armonia, MSC Orchestra, MSC Opera, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Splendida and MSC Virtuosa. Some ships will see sailings for the entire season cancelled, while others will take passengers on adjusted itineraries.
This situation could evolve further with MSC citing “the safety of passengers and crew” in a statement where it confirmed it “will continue to monitor the situation and modify ship itineraries if necessary.”
One of two ships whose entire seasons have gone out the porthole is the MSC Orchestra, which was due a full winter schedule of Red Sea sailings between November 8, 2023 to April 17, 2024.
While Israel was not on the cards for an Orchestra visit, regional neighbours Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were. But with Israel having issued warnings to cruise ships and passengers, and having bombed neighbouring Syria’s airport infrastructure, MSC Cruises is taking no chances.
The company’s caution extends to the MSC Sinfonia too, which also sees its full season cancelled, though the reasoning is less clear. Yes, Haifa in Israel was on the menu, but so were Rome, Sicily, Rhodes, Limassol, and Genoa. The complex long-term logistics behind cruise scheduling are thought to be why the company did not attempt a more minor itinerary adjustment.
No further details have been given about whether the ships will be deployed elsewhere or passengers invited to board alternative sailings. Refunds are likely to be offered.
Adjusted “Grands Voyages”
Meanwhile it’s partial disruption only for the four other ships named so far.
The MSC Virtuosa, MSC Opera, and MSC Splendida will all see minor changes to routes and ports of call on their so-called Grands Voyages.
- The Virtuosa‘s Grand Voyage sails from Southampton on October 27, 2023, to Abu Dhabi, traversing the Suez Canal, Egypt and Jordan en route.
- The Opera‘s Grand Voyage is from October 22 until November 19, from Monfalcone, Italy, taking in Egypt and Jordan on the way to Dubai.
- The MSC Splendida‘s Grand Voyage was also supposed to drop in on Egypt and Jordan after departing October 28 from Trieste, Italy, before arriving Durban, South Africa on November 23.
The MSC Armonia will see two 11-night trips amended (thought to be the November 4 and November 15 sailings towards Port Said and Alexandria in Egypt).
The company’s social media feed has exploded with questions from concerned customers about news of the cancellations and adjusted itineraries. Anyone expecting to sail with MSC Cruises should find they will be contacted with details of any changes to their holiday and the options available to them.