Amid the political and military crisis in Ukraine, travel companies with itineraries in the country are closely watching to evaluate how to proceed.
“Like everybody in the world, we are really worried about what's going on in this area,” said Alexander Bout, president of World Quest Cruises, a recently launched company that sells river cruises in Russia and Ukraine.
“Our shipping partners in Ukraine haven’t canceled any departures yet,” added Bout.
But World Quest Cruises is skipping port stops in the autonomous Crimea region of southeastern Ukraine, where Russian forces have established a military presence. In a referendum on Sunday, the Crimean people will vote on whether to join the Russian Federation.
Viking Cruises has a 12-day Footsteps of the Cossacks river cruise that sails from Kiev into the heart of the Crimean peninsula, with port stops in the cities of Sevastopol and Yalta, on the 196-passenger Viking Sineus.
Viking’s 2014 Ukraine departures begin in May. “A number of things could change between now and then,” said Richard Marnell, Viking’s senior vice president of marketing.
Viking has not cancelled any sailings. “Though we know our passengers are paying attention to the developments on the ground, we have not yet seen significant cancellations,” Marnell said.
“As we continue to monitor the situation over the coming weeks, the safety of our passengers will obviously remain our primary consideration.”
Insight Vacations, which has a strong Eastern Europe business, added Crimea to its Ukraine itinerary for 2014.
Insight President Philip Cappelli wouldn't say whether its 12-day Ukraine, Moldova and Crimea tour has been canceled, but there are no dates or prices for the tour available on the Insight website.
Bout noted that while World Quest Cruises hasn’t had cancellation requests for any of its Ukraine itineraries, some groups that were scheduled for Russia sailings in 2014 have rescheduled for 2015.
For others, recent events in Ukraine have piqued their curiosity. “We have a lot of interest to visit the Maidan, or Independence Square area, in Kiev,” said Bout.
Photos of demonstrators in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and the port of Sevastopol in Crimea courtesy of Shutterstock.