MSC Cruises has announced the cancellation of three “Grand Voyage” cruises scheduled for April 2024. The decision, influenced by the increasing unrest in the Red Sea, affects voyages on MSC Splendida, MSC Opera, and MSC Virtuosa.
The largest cruise operator in the Middle East and Africa and has already been forced to make significant changes to its world cruise onboard MSC Poesia. However, while guests onboard the world cruise will still be able to see a good selection of the original ports, guests booked onboard the three voyages cancelled on January 16 are not so lucky.
Red Sea Unrest Impacts Cruise Itineraries
MSC Cruises has cancelled three Grand Voyages scheduled to sail from Africa and the Middle East through the Red Sea area in April 2024. The primary reason for these cancellations is the heightened risk associated with transit through the Red Sea amid ongoing regional unrest.
In a letter sent to guests on January 16, 2024, booked onboard MSC Splendida, MSC Cruises conveyed the difficult decision, emphasizing the safety of passengers and crew as the paramount concern.
“Considering the risks of sailing in the Red Sea due to the ongoing attacks on ships, we have been obliged to cancel the Grand Voyage on MSC Splendida from South Africa to Italy. We know that you spent time planning your cruise and we sincerely apologize for the disappointment that this will likely cause, and we want you to know that this decision was made with your safety and well-being in mind,” MSC Cruises stated in the letter.
Similar letters were sent to guests booked onboard MSC Opera and MSC Virtuosa.
Ship to Sail to Europe Without Passengers
MSC Cruises is transferring the three ships directly to Europe, avoiding the Red Sea, and sailing around the horn of Africa and along the western coast of Africa. MSC Cruises says it will not be bringing guests along for these voyages, aiming instead to bring the ships back to Europe as soon as possible.
MSC Cruises said the following: “Regrettably, there is no viable alternative route for this voyage and therefore the ship will return to Europe with no guests onboard and with no ports of call.”
MSC Splendida was set to embark on a 23-night cruise from Durban, South Africa to Civitavecchia, Italy on April 6, 2024. The journey included stops at Saint-Denis, Reunion; Port Louis, Mauritius; sailing through the Suez Canal; and visits to Limassol, Cyprus; Rhodes, Greece; Messina, Sicily; and Naples, Italy.
Read Also: The Impact of Red Sea Tensions on Cruising
MSC Opera would have sailed a 21-night cruise starting April 21, 2024, from Dubai to Genoa, Italy. The itinerary covered Abu Dhabi and Sir Bani Yas, in the United Arab Emirates; Muscat, Oman; a transit through the Suez Canal; and stops in Limassol, Cyprus; Rhodes and Mykonos, Greece.
MSC Virtuosa was scheduled for a 23-night voyage from Dubai to Southampton in the UK, beginning March 30, 2024. The cruise included stops at Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Sir Bani Yas; Muscat, Oman; transiting the Suez Canal; and further stops in the Mediterranean, such as Rhodes, Greece, and Barcelona, Spain; and arriving in Southampton on April 22, 2024.
MSC Cruises Offers Alternatives
Guests have three different alternatives for their booking. The first option is to transfer their booking to a similar future Grand Voyage without additional costs.
The second option is rebooking to a different cruise, although if that cruise is more expensive, guests must pay the difference. If the cruise they choose is cheaper, MSC will reimburse the difference. Guests can also choose a full refund, with cancellation fees waived by MSC Cruises.
The cancellation of the three cruises on January 16 echoes the changes made to MSC Poesia‘s World Cruise earlier. As she set off on January 5, 2024, the cruise had its route significantly modified, avoiding the Red Sea and cancelling calls to Malta, Greece, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.