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Greek Fires Stemmed at Olympia, Disrupts Cruise Call; Tours So Far OK

August 28, 2007 By: Jennifer Merritt, David Eisen Travel Agent

Forest fires in Greece, which killed at least 63 people over the weekend, scorched the pristine forest that surrounds ancient Olympia, but Greek officials say the 2,800-year-old ruins, the site of the first Olympic games, were spared. Flames from the fires reached the edge of the ancient stadium, but aircraft dropping water and foam, succored by firefighters and volunteers on the ground, halted the fire's advance. Olympia, also known as Katakolon, is a customary stop on many cruise lines' Mediterranean itineraries and the fires have already affected some itineraries.

Regent Seven Seas' Navigator departed Venice on Saturday on a seven-night cruise ending in Athens. Word on Monday from Regent's director of strategic marketing, Andrew Poulton, is that Navigator's Tuesday stop in Katakolon has been cancelled, and the ship will replace the call with Corfu. As of late Monday, there are no changes to Royal Caribbean's deployment in the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Crystal Cruises calls in Nauplion on September 7. Mimi Weisband, Crystal's vice president of public relations, says the line hasn't made any changes yet, but "we are contacting our port agent and local operators to get more information." Carnival Cruise Lines, on the other hand, says it hasn't "heard of any issues with these calls," while Holland America Line, as of this morning, says it, too, has not altered any itineraries due to the fires in Greece. Princess Cruises doesn't call on Katakolon until September 11, and Julie Benson, Princess' vice president of public relations, says they will continue to monitor the situation.

Also keeping a close eye on things is Collette Vacations. "The safety of our customers and employees is our number one priority; therefore, we are in regular contact with our tour managers and partners on the ground there should we need to change itineraries," said John Galvin, chief financial officer for the tour operator. Collette Vacations has five departures for Greece scheduled between now and September 20.

In Athens, at least one hotel said it's business as usual, despite lingering smoke from the nearby fires. June Farrell, vice president of international public relations for Marriott, said that to the hotelier's knowledge, no guest or employee has been injured or stranded by the fires and that the hotel there is operating normally. "It's still holiday season in Athens, so it's too early to tell if there will be some impact on business," she said, noting that August is a typically slow time for tourism in the city.

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