Cruise lines are starting to plug Turkey back into their
itineraries for 2020 and 2021 in hopes that the country's troubles are finally
The handful of lines that were already operating there in
2018 are being joined by names such as Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas
Cruises, Princess Cruises, Seabourn and Holland America Line.
"We are returning in a small way in 2020 with Island
Princess and Crown Princess calling to Kusadasi," said Negin Kamali,
spokeswoman for Princess, who said each ship would make one call.
Seabourn will return next year with 20 calls split between
the Odyssey, the Encore and the Ovation to ports on Turkey's southwest coast.
The moves come as the Islamic State terror group has been
ousted from the small territory in Syria that remained under its control. It
also comes after nearly three years of relative stability following a coup attempt by
a Turkish military faction in 2016.
In a conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss
fourth-quarter earnings, Frank Del Rio, chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line
Holdings, said the revival of interest by passengers in travel to the Eastern
Mediterranean and the increased confidence in the security situation expressed
by cruise lines is a boon to the industry.
"Turkey is the key destination that has been somewhat
off-limits to the industry for the last couple of years," Del Rio said. "So
the fact that the Northern American consumer, who is the one booking most of
these Eastern Mediterranean cruises, seems to want to come back to the Eastern
Med and is willing to pay a premium price bodes very well for 2020."
A few smaller, destination-oriented cruise lines are already
making calls on Turkey, including Azamara Club Cruises, Windstar Cruises and
Silversea Cruises. They have been joined this year by ships such as Oceania
Cruises' Riviera, which on July 12 will make the first of three scheduled calls
on Kusadasi for the line.
Del Rio said on the conference call that advanced bookings
for sailings this year that included Turkey were "better loaded and at
higher pricing than the surrounding sailings that do not include Turkey."
Together, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises are
scheduled for 12 calls in Turkey this year and 20 next year.
"When the Eastern Med is good, it's as good as any, if
not the best, of all itineraries," Del Rio said. "So we are all
looking forward to being able to increase our presence there."
Not all destinations in Turkey are benefitting equally. The
country's cultural and tourism capital, Istanbul, was once the anchor of an
Eastern Mediterranean itinerary that ran between Venice and Turkey, but it was
also the site of an Islamic State-inspired attack on the airport in 2016 in
which three attackers killed 45 people.
In 2015, the last year before most cruise lines stopped
going, Istanbul had more than 300 calls and 600,000 cruise guests. The number
of calls fell to 42 in 2016. Last year, four lonely cruise ships called between
January and November, according to the Turkish Directorate General of Merchant
The situation is set to improve somewhat starting late this
year. Celestyal Cruises will sail its Eclectic Aegean itinerary starting in
October, bringing six overnight stays in Istanbul through the end of November.
It will also call on Canakkale at the entrance to the Dardanelles, allowing for
excursions to Troy and Gallipoli, the line said.
Holland America Line has scheduled seven overnights in
Istanbul in summer 2020 on departures out of Venice of its Zuiderdam, Nieuw
Amsterdam and Veendam. Oceania Cruises has seven Istanbul calls scheduled next
summer, as well.