MSC Cruises has safely completed the repatriation of 800 Israeli citizens who were originally aboard MSC Musica‘s most recent sailing. The sailing was altered and did not return to Haifa as planned for debarkation. Instead, the cruise line chartered alternative arrangements to bring guests safely home at this troubling time.
Cruise Guests Arrive Home on Chartered Ship
When MSC Musica was diverted from her planned roundtrip itinerary from Haifa, Israel, the cruise line began a complicated operation to safely disembark all guests and return them home.
The ship had departed Israel on what was to have been a 7-night roundtrip Mediterranean cruise on Thursday, October 5, calling on Limassol, Cyprus; Mykonos, Athens, and Santorini in Greece; and Ephesus, Turkey, before returning to Haifa on Thursday, October 12.
When the missile attacks began in Israel on Saturday morning, October 7, the ship’s itinerary and return to Israel hung in the balance.
Ultimately, the ship shortened its voyage and skipped multiple ports to divert directly to Limassol to debark guests, which included moving 800 Israeli passengers to the Mano Cruises ship Crown Iris, a much smaller vessel that was privately chartered by MSC Cruises to return those guests to Haifa.
“Following the security situation, the company’s cruises scheduled to depart from Haifa were cancelled. In order to return the passengers to Israel safely, MSC Cruises initiated a complex operation to return the Israeli passengers,” the cruise line explained on its website.
The return charter was financed completely by MSC Cruises, and all Israeli passengers were safely returned to Haifa by 9 a.m. on Wednesday, October 11, to rejoin their families and loved ones at this very distressing time.
“We thank the Mano Shipping company for joining in a short time to assist in this operation,” said MSC Cruises.
No explanation has been offered about why MSC Musica could not return to Haifa herself, but it may related to logistics, port operations, or other factors.
All October Cruises Diverted From Israel
In addition to itinerary adjustments and cancellations already announced for MSC Musica and MSC Sinfonia, the cruise line has confirmed that all sailings planned to visit Haifa in October 2023 have been diverted to alternative ports of call. No decision has yet been made on cruises in November or beyond.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and hope to resume sailings to Israel as soon as possible,” said Eyal Atias, general manager from MSC Cruises Israel. “MSC Cruises stands by the State of Israel in its difficult time and wishes for quieter days.”
MSC Cruises is the largest cruise operator in Europe and sails to Haifa in northern Israel, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Tel Aviv, throughout the year with different ships making either port of call visits or being homeported in the country.
Other Cruise Lines Also Cancelling
In addition to the cancellations and diversions from MSC Cruises, several other cruise lines have also adjusted their visits to Israel for the coming weeks.
Royal Caribbean diverted Odyssey of the Seas to other ports of call, while three sailings aboard Rhapsody of the Seas have been cancelled. That Vision-class ship is currently homeported in Haifa, Israel.
Celebrity Cruises also made adjustments for Celebrity Apex to avoid the country on multiple itineraries. Luxury line Celestyal Cruises has made the longest-term adjustments at the moment, cancelling all calls in Israel through November 2023.
While no cruise lines have yet made a long-term cancellation of any plans for sailing to or homeporting from Israel, the situation is undoubtedly being closely monitored and those adjustments may be forthcoming as developments continue.