Cruise Line Replaces Middle East Deployment With Europe Sailings

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Luxury cruise line Windstar Cruises will soon open for sale a series of Western Mediterranean sailings departing between December 2023 and April 2024.

The cruises will be operated aboard Star Legend, which is being redeployed following the suspension of scheduled Middle East cruises, due to the Israel-Hamas war.

Star Legend to Sail Between Barcelona, Rome

Small ship lovers will be glad to know there is a new option for off-season cruises this winter in the Western Mediterranean. Windstar Cruises announced that its 312-guest Star Legend will offer a series of 16 cruises sailing between Barcelona and Rome. The all-suite ship was due to sail Middle East cruises, but that series has been cancelled.

Windstar Cruises’ launch of its first-ever Middle East itineraries had been set for November 2023 and were to continue into the spring of 2025. More than a dozen itineraries were planned, along with a set of cruise tours offered in Dubai, UAE, and Muscat, Oman.

The ship was originally scheduled to sail in the Middle East. We’ve postponed our launch in that region to begin in November 2024,said Christopher Prelog, president of Windstar Cruises.

With a ship in the Mediterranean, we saw an opportunity to offer guests a legendary winter season in Europe. Our small ships and intimate atmosphere provide a truly unique way to explore Europe’s winter wonderlands, while enjoying the magic of the season and the comforts and casual luxury that Windstar is known for,Prelog added.

Windstar Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Emi330 / Shutterstock

The Western Mediterranean series will open for sale on November 6, 2023. While the ship’s itineraries are not yet posted, Windstar Cruises is planning to offer mostly 7-night sailings between Barcelona and Rome, with planned port calls at Nice and Marseille, France, and Florence/Livorno, Italy. Overnights are planned in Rome, Nice, and Barcelona. 

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Guests can look forward to less-crowded attractions and a generally more quiet atmosphere as the ship makes its way from port to port. Itineraries were crafted to enable guests to experience easier entry to landmarks and museums, and to immerse themselves in cultural activities and celebrations, such as holiday markets in December and Carnevale events in February.

One 8-night sailing is planned, from Rome to Athens, with calls at ports along the Amalfi Coast and in Greece. Another longer cruise, available for 8 or 9 days, will be a Christmas voyage, with the 9-day option including New Year’s Eve.

The holiday cruise will attract guests who want to be in Rome on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with opportunities to visit the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. In Florence, during the holiday cruise, guests can enjoy the city’s traditional Light Festival.

Star Legend’s sailing schedule puts the ship in Cannes, France, in December, at the same time the International Luxury Travel Market conference will be held in the famous city. Several Windstar Cruises’ executives, including Prelog, will attend the conference and promote Star Legend’s recent upgrades completed as part of the cruise line’s $250 million Star Plus Initiative.

Many Cruise Lines Avoiding Middle East Turmoil

The Israeli war with Hamas has caused virtually all cruise lines operating in the region to adjust itineraries away from the conflict. Royal Caribbean, for example, altered Odyssey of the Seas’ planned port calls on her October 15, 2023 cruise, replacing Haifa and Ashdod, Israel, with visits to Bodrum, Turkey, and Limassol, Cyprus.

Odyssey of the Seas in Israel
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean

MSC Cruises has temporarily suspended all operations in the region. Other affected cruise lines with scheduled Middle East itineraries include Azamara, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, and Norwegian, Oceania, and Holland America Line, among others.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department issued an advisory cautioning against travel to the region due to heightened risks of terrorism and civil unrest.

In addition to Star Legend, Windstar Cruises operates the 148-guest Wind Star, the 342-guest Wind Surf, the 148-guest Wind Spirit, as well as Star Breeze and Star Pride, both sister ships to Star Legend with capacity for 312 guests. The line is owned by Xanterra Travel Collection.

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