While many cruise ships have been forced to alter itineraries due to the tense situation in Israel, Norwegian Gem is having more significant changes than most vessels for her November 11 and November 22 sailings, the final two sailings before the ship heads back to North America.
Not only are port visits in Israel cancelled, but other ports have also been rearranged to accommodate the changes. This can cause difficulties for travelers who may have made various independent tour arrangements.
Due to the heightened tensions in Israel, many cruise lines have opted to cancel port visits in the region. This includes Norwegian Cruise Line, which has cancelled all remaining calls to Israel for 2023.
This has led to some dramatic itinerary changes for the 93,530-gross-ton, Jewel-class Norwegian Gem, which is offering longer eastern Mediterranean sailings that were to have included two port visits in the country. The ship’s last two cruises of the season are both impacted, though the next voyage – the 15-night transatlantic between Rome and New York – does not have any changes.
The Saturday, November 11 sailing of Norwegian Gem is an 11-night voyage from Athens to Istanbul, with a total of 9 planned port visits. Now, three ports have been completely cancelled and the ship will no longer call on either Ashdod or Haifa in Israel or Port Said in Egypt.
Instead, Norwegian Gem will overnight in Alexandria, giving guests more time to enjoy that culturally and historically rich destination.
The planned visit to Larnaca, Cyprus has been moved up in the itinerary to replace Ashdod, and Limassol, Cyprus has been added to the itinerary to replace Haifa.
The visit to Alanya, Turkey, has also been moved a day earlier, and Heraklion, Greece has been added. Finally, the visit to Rhodes – still planned for Sunday, November 19 – will be one hour shorter, now departing at 5 p.m. rather than 6 p.m. as originally scheduled.
In total, 7 days of the 11-night sailing have been altered. Only the very first day – a day at sea – and the final call to Kusadasi, Turkey on Monday, November 20, are unaffected. The ship will arrive in Istanbul on Tuesday, November 21 for an overnight before debarkation the next morning.
While the cruise line will adjust pre-paid Norwegian Cruise Line shore excursions for changed port days and refunds will be given for tours in now-cancelled ports, guests with independent arrangements will need to contact their tour operators for refunds or other options.
The Wednesday, November 22, 2023 departure of Norwegian Gem – a 12-night Mediterranean sailing from Istanbul to Rome ahead of the ship’s transatlantic repositioning cruise – has likewise had 4 of 9 ports of call adjusted.
The sailing will leave Istanbul as planned on Wednesday, November 22, and the first two ports of call – Kusadasi, Turkey and Piraeus (Athens), Greece – are unchanged.
The next four days are all adjusted, however. The calls to Ashdod and Haifa are cancelled, a call to Heraklion, Greece has been added, and both the visits to Rhodes, Greece and Alanya, Turkey, have been bumped a day later than originally scheduled. Finally, Limassol, Cyprus has been added to the itinerary.
The remaining days – an overnight visit to Alexandria, Egypt; a day at sea; and visits to Siracusa and Naples in Italy – are not changed. The cruise will end on schedule in Civitavecchia (Rome) on Monday, December 4, 2023.
As with the previous sailing, pre-paid tours booked through the cruise line will be refunded if they cannot be rescheduled, but any independent arrangements must be settled through the tour operators guests have hired.
It can be challenging for cruise lines to need so many itinerary changes, especially when the regional situation dictates that multiple cruise ships must be accommodated.
Alternative ports can only welcome so many ships, and vessels already booked into those ports have priority for available berths.
On longer, port-intensive cruises, it can be difficult to find replacement ports in the region if a ship already plans to visit the most popular destinations. In some cases, as with these two sailings of Norwegian Gem, shuffling the order of visits can help make it easier to add new destinations.
Another alternative can be to extend existing ports of call to give guests more time for immersive exploration, though this isn’t always feasible depending on a ship’s schedule and the distance to the next destination, as well as what timing a port can accommodate.
Guests booked on any eastern Mediterranean sailing in the coming months should stay updated about potential itinerary changes and what that may mean for their cruise vacation plans.
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