As tensions in Eastern Europe have mounted in recent days, culminating with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 23, cruise lines have closely monitored the situation and the possibility of itinerary changes and port cancelations. Norwegian Cruise Line has become the first major cruise line to cancel all calls to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the remainder of 2022.
Russia Port of Call Canceled
In an email to booked guests and travel advisors, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced the cancelation of all port of call visits to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the rest of 2022. The popular port of call is in northeastern Russia, on the Baltic Sea, and is commonly included in sailings exploring northern Europe and Scandinavia.
The email states: “The health, safety, and security of our guests, crew, and communities we visit is our top priority. Due to the escalated situation between Russia and Ukraine we have made the decision to alter itineraries and remove calls to St. Petersburg, Russia from our sailings for the remainder of the year.”
Guests who have already booked and pre-paid for shore tours in St. Petersburg will have those fees automatically canceled and refunded to the original form of payment. Because of the volume of changes that must be processed, it may take up to 30 days for refunds to be processed.
This change will affect a number of sailings in the coming months, including voyages aboard Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Prima, and other ships. Impacted sailings have already been adjusted on Norwegian Cruise Line’s website.
For the time being, while St. Petersburg has been removed from itineraries, other ports of call have not yet been substituted, though Norwegian Cruise Line is working to do so. The email explains, “Our team is diligently working to confirm replacement ports and will advise all impacted guests and travel advisors as soon as possible.”
The First, But Not Only, Cruise Line to Cancel
While Norwegian Cruise Line has been the first to make the official announcement for canceling ports of call in Russia, other cruise lines are taking similar steps.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, which are both also part of the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings corporation, have likewise announced the cancelation of Russian and Ukrainian ports of call for their 2022 itineraries.
Other major cruise lines are also watching the situation closely. Earlier today, even before Norwegian’s announcement, Cunard Line and P&O Cruises UK released identical statements through their official social media accounts:
“In light of the current situation evolving in Ukraine we continue to monitor this situation very closely and we will amend itineraries as necessary following guidance. Our top priority is compliance, environmental protection, and the health, safety, and well-being of our guests, crew members, shoreside employees, and the people in the places we touch and we will advise guests of any changes accordingly as soon as possible.“
As the situation continues to develop, other cruise lines that regularly visit the region will undoubtedly make similar announcements or alterations to their itineraries as they deem necessary. Similarly, river cruise lines in the region may also adjust their operations.
While St. Petersburg is more than 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) from the Ukraine and the reports of violence, this move by Norwegian Cruise Line is first and foremost about safety, as there is no telling how violence in the region may spread, or whether other communities may see riots or other reactions that could endanger visitors.
Removing cruise ship port of calls is also a way to economically impact the region and correlates with the economic sanctions being placed on Russia by many other nations.
By making this decision right away, Norwegian Cruise Line also has more time and greater flexibility to adjust itineraries and make alternate arrangements, before other regional ports of call become fully booked and unable to accommodate another visiting ship.
Many cruise travelers will undoubtedly be disappointed by not being able to visit St. Petersburg at this time, as the port is a true gem of northern Europe and is a highly anticipated destination for many guests. Due to Russian regulations, cruise ships often remain overnight in St. Petersburg, giving guests ample time to explore the extraordinary city.
Now, that time will be spent either at sea amidst the region’s amazing scenery, or else visiting other ports of call to explore their unique cultures and histories. While no announcements have yet been made about which ports may be substituted for St. Petersburg, nearby options include ports in Sweden, Finland, Poland, and other nearby nations.
This is undoubtedly a delicate and tricky situation, and Cruise Hive extends its thoughts to everyone impacted by the violence, including the thousands of Ukrainian crew members aboard cruise ships around the world who may have difficulty contacting their families at home at this time.