Viking Cruises, which had been taking a wait-and-see approach, has decided to cancel its remaining Ukraine sailings for 2014.
“When the conflict began, we, like many, were hopeful for a quick and peaceful resolution,” Richard Marnell, Viking’s senior vice president of marketing. “With tension on the ground continuing, combined with questions about Russian visa requirements for Crimea — and the U.S. State Department warning on travel to the region — we were not confident we could deliver our standard high-quality experience in the near future.”
Consequently, Viking is repositioning the newly refurbished 196-passenger Viking Sineus to a 12-day itinerary between Bucharest and the Black Sea. The ship was scheduled to sail a 12-day Footsteps of the Cossacks cruise from Kiev into the heart of the Crimean Peninsula.
All guests who were booked on the remaining 2014 Ukraine sailings were notified of the cancellations and were offered a full refund.
Viking’s decision comes after several months of unrest in Ukraine that has resulted in a separatist movement in the east and Russian intervention, a political and military situation that remains unresolved.
Viking wouldn’t disclose the losses incurred from canceling the sailings, but noted that it is never ideal to cancel sailings.
“That said, we are very pleased about the opportunity to make the best of the situation and introduce a great new itinerary on a route that Viking passengers have never before had a chance to sail, one that sails through the Danube Delta, hugs the Black Sea coastline and still visits Odessa,” said Marnell.
Thus far, there are two departures for the Bucharest, Istanbul & the Black Sea sailing, on Sept. 8 and 15. Marnell said the company is seeing strong interest for the departures, with some cabin categories already sold out.
“We are still hopeful for a peaceful resolution in the region, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely and will be weighing many different factors — including the success of the new itinerary — as we plan for the 2015 sailing season,” said Marnell.