For now at least, Istanbul is out. No major cruise line is calling in Turkey’s capital for the remainder of 2016.
But it is listed as a port of call for several major cruise lines in 2017, with the schedule featuring calls from new ships such as Majestic Princess. What does Istanbul’s current situation mean long term to the eastern Med?
Not only have many eastern Med clients switched to other cruise itineraries, there is considerably less tonnage in the Med overall and the outlook for 2017 remains questionable.
Crystal Cruises was one of the first to make the move away from Istanbul. CEO & President Edie Rodriguez explains why and provides an outlook: “Yes, we were one of the first, and let me share with you that it’s hard making those decisions because you don’t want to hurt economies. But I am definitely a firm believer in the mantra ‘Always safety first.’
“We are always fiscally responsible, but my whole team will tell you, I will never spare one penny to cut costs to try to go around not keeping us safe. If that means we have to give refunds or do whatever we have to do, it will always be about safety first.”
She relates a personal experience: “Every year my husband and I go away on our anniversary, which is Valentine’s Day weekend. So on a personal level, I will tell you when the Charlie Hebdo attack happened back in January of ’15, we went to the Peninsula Paris for five nights on purpose. We went because I said, ‘I will not let these terrorists win; we’re going to go to Paris, and we’re going to support Paris.’ And we did.
“I just refused as a person who works in the tourism industry; I’m just not going to let them win. But again, you make a personal decision; it’s going to be different than when you’re making a decision for a company and the lives of others.
Rodriguez says predicting the future is next to impossible. “Honestly, I don’t know when Istanbul is going to come back, or Paris. It’s very hard to predict, I mean, and it’s a shame because these are 2 incredible destinations. I’ve been to Turkey many times, and now I’m dying to go back and fly the hot air balloons over in Cappadocia.”
But she adds that on a personal level, she can’t honestly say she wants to go there right now. “So I want to help Turkey’s economy, but I don’t know how we as a global community pull this together as there are no guarantees anywhere. Sadly, this is the new normal. We just try to make an educated decision based on all the data you’re given.”
Rodriguez points out that other markets in the eastern Med remain saleable. “In November of ’17 I’m hosting the President’s Cruise on Crystal Cruises that is going to Israel, Egypt and Jordan. I am still at this point in time very bullish on these countries.”