MSC Cruises has made massive adjustments to multiple ships in its fleet for the winter 2023-2024 season due to the situation in Israel and travel restrictions to other ports of call in the region.
Itineraries on at least six ships have been impacted, with full-season cancellations on some vessels and itinerary adjustments on others.
MSC Cruises – the largest cruise operator in Europe – is making significant changes to its winter 2023-2024 deployment plans and upcoming itineraries due to the tensions in Israel. Impacted ships include MSC Orchestra, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Virtuosa, MSC Opera, MSC Splendida, and MSC Armonia.
MSC Cruises has said that “the safety of its passengers and crew is always its upmost priority and during an evolving situation it will continue to monitor the situation and modify ship itineraries if necessary.”
These changes are in addition to the adjusted itineraries and cancelled sailings for MSC Musica and MSC Sinfonia that were previously announced.
While adjustments are still being finalized, the full winter schedule for MSC Orchestra in the Red Sea with sailings from November 8, 2023 through April 17, 2024 has been cancelled.
Those sailings were not planned to visit Israel directly but included ports of call in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. The proximity to Israel, however, and the possibility of escalated tensions throughout the region have made it necessary to cancel the season rather than risk continual itinerary adjustments, last-minute cancellations, or unsafe situations.
Furthermore, multiple travel restrictions in neighboring countries “would have adversely affected the holiday experience for passengers,” the statement from MSC Cruises reads.
A replacement deployment for MSC Orchestra has not yet been announced. The cruise line may move the ship elsewhere to offer different sailings, or the ship could be laid up and temporarily out of service instead.
Similarly, the full winter season for MSC Sinfonia from November 12, 2023 through April 15, 2024, is also cancelled. That ship was to have been sailing a variety of Mediterranean cruises with Haifa, Israel, as a highlight of each itinerary.
Since MSC Sinfonia was to have been visiting other amazing Mediterranean ports such as Rome, Sicily, Rhodes, Limassol, and Genoa as well, it is unclear why the whole season is cancelled rather than adjusting individual itineraries. Juggling multiple ship changes can be challenging even with months to plan, however, and involves difficult logistics with port schedules and docking availability.
As with MSC Orchestra, no replacement season for MSC Sinfonia has yet been confirmed, but further details are likely forthcoming in the next few weeks.
Four additional ships in the MSC Cruises’ fleet also have itinerary changes related to the current geopolitical situation.
The upcoming Grand Voyages for MSC Virtuosa, MSC Opera, and MSC Splendida are all being slightly adjusted, though the exact itinerary refinements are still being confirmed. Routes and port calls may need adjusting to accommodate these changes.
MSC Virtuosa‘s Grand Voyage is from Southampton to Abu Dhabi, departing on October 27, 2023, with passage through the Suez Canal and port visits in Egypt and Jordan along the way. This sailing is repositioning the ship ahead of the Formula 1 hospitality experience for the Grand Prix in November.
Likewise, MSC Opera‘s Grand Voyage is from October 22 through November 19, from Monfalcone, Italy to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, while MSC Splendida‘s Grand Voyage is from October 28 through November 23, sailing from Trieste, Italy to Durban, South Africa. Both ships have planned visits in Egypt and Jordan along the way, though neither vessel is scheduled to call directly on Israel.
Finally, two 11-night sailings aboard MSC Armonia are also adjusted. These are most likely the ship’s November 4 and November 15 departures, both of which were to have visited Port Said and Alexandria in Egypt.
Depending on the sailing a guest has booked, different options are available. For completely cancelled cruises, full refunds will most likely be processed, though it could take some time to process so many transactions and guests should be patient.
Even if a guest’s cruise is not cancelled, MSC Cruises is offering the option for travelers to move their cruise to a sailing of a similar length or to request a full refund.
The cruise line is reaching out to impacted guests as quickly as possible with their options and possible alternatives. Guests who booked their travels through an agent should also communicate with them to stay updated on the changes during these uncertain times.
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