NEW YORK -- Two cruise lines altered itineraries of ships slated to
call at Middle Eastern ports after the U.S. State Department
imposed a travel warning against Israel, the West Bank and Gaza,
and updated its warning on Yemen.
Norwegian Cruise Line dropped Ashdod and Haifa, Israel, from the
Norwegian Dream's 11-day Istanbul to Athens cruise departing Oct.
15. The vessel, which was scheduled to call at the two ports on
Oct. 19 and 20, instead will visit the Greek ports of Mykonos and
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises' Song of Flower dropped Aden and
Hodeidah, Yemen, from a 16-day cruise scheduled to sail from
Pireaus, Greece, to Muscat, Oman, on Oct. 30. The ship instead will
offer an extended port call and land package in Safaga, Egypt.
While tourism to the Middle East could be poised for a rebound
following the cease-fire agreement reached on Oct. 17 in
Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, three weeks of violence have taken a toll
on travel to certain parts of the region.
The Israeli Ministry of Tourism reported that tourists cannot
access the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City.
Additionally, Israeli soldiers at checkpoints along access roads
to Jericho and Bethlehem were stopping people from entering those
cities, which are under the control of the Palestinian
In the U.S., agents at St. Louis-based Maritz Travel Co. said
they worked quickly to reroute a group of 50 skittish business
travelers out of the Middle East.
A client of the firm's meetings division, which Maritz declined
to name, was on a Nile River cruise in Egypt when the State
Department issued its warning.
The group was supposed to spend three days in Cairo after the
cruise but opted to cut the trip short, bypass Cairo and head for
Paris, said John Luby, corporate vice president of groups and
The Middle East crisis also prompted the closure of the Nazareth
Renaissance hotel due to a lack of business.
According to Raphy Weiner, president of HEI Hotels, which
manages three Marriott and Renaissance hotels in Israel, guests
from the Nazareth Renaissance were transfered to the Nazareth
Marriott, located in a different part of the city.
Haim Ariel, the New York-based director of marketing sales,
North America, for the Dans of Israel Hotels and Resorts, said he
was optimistic in a market that "has had its ups and downs" in the
The Israeli chain, which operates 12 properties around the
country, three in Jerusalem, did not close any hotels, but there
has been a cancellation rate of up to 50% for stays through Nov. 10
at some properties.
Ariel said there has been some freezing of advertising to save
costs but the chain is trying to be flexible on cancellation
Meanwhile, the Israel Ministry of Tourism said it is not
suspending its marketing campaigns, according to Yehuda Shen,
deputy tourism commissioner for North America.
Shen said on Oct. 16 that he was "misquoted" in an earlier
Travel Weekly report that stated Israel had suspended destination
Shuly Kustanowitz, Jerry Limone, Brian Major and Donna
Tunney contributed to this report.