This Week in Cruise: Lines Shun Red Sea, AQV Replies to Partners

Terrorist attacks on Red Sea commercial shipping have resulted in military responses by the U.S. and other nations. That's forced some cruise lines to adjust or cancel itineraries. MSC Cruises, according to Cruise Industry News, just canceled three, multi-week Grand Voyages planned for April 2024 by MSC Splendida, MSC Opera and MSC VirtuosaOriginally scheduled to operate from Durban, South Africa to Genoa, Italy, from Dubai to Genoa, and from Dubai to Southampton, U.K., those ships will now avoid the Red Sea and sail around Africa’s West Coast in repositioning to Europe. In addition, Silversea’s Silver Moon just completed a voyage that ended at Athens, Greece, instead of the scheduled port of Muscat, Oman.

That said, Celestyal Cruises recently introduced new Middle Eastern itineraries on Celestyal Journey and, separately, expanded its North American trade sales team.

The world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean International’s 250,800-gross-ton Icon of the Seas sailed into its Miami homeport last week, reports Seatrade Cruise News. The ship’s humongous size proved a head-turner as drivers pulled over along local highways to get out and snap photos.

Signature Travel Network and Virtuoso recently removed  American Queen Voyages from their preferred supplier lists, and AAA Travel (through preferred partner Pleasant Holidays) stopped selling the line late last year. Partnership service issues including, in some cases, the timeliness of commission payments, have surfaced. Late last week, Travel Agent received this official statement from an AQV spokesperson: "We acknowledge and apologize for the issues. American Queen Voyages deeply values all of our travel agent partners and are taking all matters very seriously. We are working to address the situation as quickly as possible." 

New Destinations and Beyond

In a major U.S. expansion, MSC Cruises opened sales for its new itineraries from Galveston, TX, the line’s first U.S. homeport beyond the East Coast. Starting in late 2025, guests can sail from Texas to Mexico and Central America onboard MSC Seascape.

Sister publication Luxury Travel Advisor published stories about Abercrombie & Kent’s decision to build a new, fifth ultra-luxury Nile River vessel and Cunard Line's extended partnership with Chef Michel Roux. In addition, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection opened bookings for its third new superyacht, Luminara.

On the itinerary front, Holland America Line will sail to more than 50 ports during its newly introduced 2025-26 Asia season. Hurtigruten Norway is bringing back three popular pre-pandemic itineraries. Two will sail to the north of Finland and the Norwegian coast, while the third is an astronomy-focused sailing. Emerald Cruises announced a culinary-focused European river voyage starring two VIP chefs who’ve competed on “Top Chef: World All-Stars.”

Swan Hellenic and Passport Online announced a new partnership. Travel advisors who use Passport Online to populate and market their online inventory of leisure travel products can now access information and pricing for Swan Hellenic’s expedition cruises to Antarctica, the Arctic and beyond.

Norwegian Cruise Line informed guests and travel advisors in an email that foreign currency exchange will no longer be available on its ships, effective February 1, 2024. In addition, U.S. dollars will become the sole form of payment for guests to settle their onboard accounts.

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