MSC Cruises yesterday carried out a charter operation to safely bring Israeli customers back to the port of Haifa. Given the outbreak of Hamas hostilities against Israel, most cruise lines are changing their itineraries.
The Israeli passengers were on the MSC Musica
The ship left Israel for what was to be a 7-day cruise in the Mediterranean on October 5. It was calling at Limassol, Mykonos, Athens, Santorini and Ephesus and was due to return to Haifa today, Thursday October 12.
The ship’s route and return to Israel could not be done safely. The ship therefore shortened its circuit to head towards Limassol in order to disembark the 800 Israeli customers. MSC therefore privately chartered the Crown Iris ship from Mano Cruise to allow Israeli customers to disembark at the port of Haifa.
This charter was financed by MSC and all affected passengers arrived safely yesterday, Wednesday October 11, to join their loved ones during this difficult time.
Not all cruises scheduled for October will stop in Israel
MSC confirmed that all cruises scheduled to dock in Haifa were being diverted to alternative ports of call. This concerns, in particular, the MSC Musica and the MSC Sinfonia. The cruise line is considering whether or not to maintain stopovers in Haifa for the month of November.
Other cruise lines affected
Royal Caribbean diverted the Odyssey of the Seas to other ports of call. Three sailings aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas were also canceled.
Celebrity Cruises also made adjustments for Celebrity Apex to avoid Israel. Celebrity Cruises has now also removed Alexandria stops from the itinerary for current and onward voyages as of mid-October
It seems clear that most cruises scheduled to visit Israel, including this November, will be offered a new itinerary.
Holland America Line’s New Statendam left port on Saturday evening after the shipping company had collected all passengers from their shore excursions. The cruise ship was actually supposed to stay in Haifa for three days.
Oceania Cruises’ Nauticawhich began its journey in Haifa on Friday, October 7 and later also included Ashdod, left Haifa early Saturday afternoon and headed directly to Limassol, Cyprus, where it arrived on the 9th.
The Norwegian Gem now also sails from Egypt directly to Limassol and completes an additional day at sea. It was actually supposed to sail to Ashdod.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises canceled Seven Seas Voyager’s stops at Haifa on October 14-15 and Ashdod on October 16-17.
TUI Cruises initially did not cancel the Mein Schiff 5 stops in Ashdod and Haifa on October 11 and 12, but ultimately redirected the Israeli stops to Marmaris and Santorini at least for October 11 and 12. TUI Cruises continues to ask its passengers to be patient until a final decision is made on whether or not to travel on October 22.
Only the Crown Iris of the Israeli shipping company Mano Maritime called at the cruise port of Haifa as planned on October 8, 2023. The shipping company is headquartered in Haifa.
More than 60 cruise ship calls were planned in October and November alone in Israeli ports
These include Mein Schiff 5, MSC Sinfonia, Costa Pacifica, Seven Seas Voyager, Azamara Journey and Azamara Pursuit, Silver Spirit and Silver Moon, Marina and Rivera, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Musica, Island Princess, AIDA prima, Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Dawn, Rhapsody of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas.
Israel was poised for a bumper cruise season before last weekend’s escalation of violence around Gaza. Haifa is expected to welcome around 700,000 cruise passengers this year.