NCLH Drops All 61 Turkish Port Calls For 2016

Cruise Week

In a major blow to Turkey and Eastern Med cruising in general, NCLH has cancelled all calls to the country in 2016.


“For all of 2016 we will bypass Turkey, impacting 61 itineraries - 32 at Norwegian, 17 at Oceania and 12 at Regent. It includes Istanbul, Kusadasi, Antalya - all ports in Turkey,” said NCLH CEO Frank Del Rio.


“This is one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make itinerary-wise because Turkey is very dear to our hearts. The 1st gentleman who ever gave me a cheque to invest in Oceania before Oceania even existed was Turkish. So we’ve been very supportive of Turkey from the start of our company.”


It’s a tough move form a business standpoint, too.  “When Turkey and the Greek Islands are calm and collected, it’s the best destination for us,” says Del Rio. “Highest demand, highest yields, etc., but given what has happened to Turkey over the last several months, and with all the intelligence that we subscribe to, we believe that the correct course of action is to not call on Turkish ports for 2016.”


Istanbul is an important turnaround port for the company. This year Athens will take up much of the slack.


“The good news is that the situation in Greece has turned around significantly over the last 3 yr. with all the fiscal issues,” says Del Rio. “So we’re confident that the substitute of ports, primarily Athens instead of Istanbul as a turnaround, along with Santorini, which is the poster child for Greek Isle life, will more than please our guests.


“The eastern Med has a lot of wonderful places to visit - the Greek Isles, Cyprus, Israel, Malta and all the countries up and down the Adriatic. So a 1 yr. hiatus and hopefully we’ll be back in Turkey in 2017.”


In terms of compensating pax, Del Rio says, “The 1st sailing isn’t until April, so if they want to cancel, they can cancel. And if you’re inside cancellation, we’re allowing you to move your booking to another itinerary.”


Agents have reported that business has slowed significantly for itineraries involving Turkey, so this appears to be a sound business decision. Del Rio says flatly that the move is being made solely for security reasons.


“If you recall last fall when the issues in Turkey started to arise, a lot of cruise lines cancelled port calls in Turkey. We didn’t. We held out. We had confidence that things would turn around. They haven’t, and it’s the right thing to do. “I feel terrible about it.”


Regarding the business behind the decision, Del Rio frankly says it’s a risk either way. “If in a month everything is calm and collected and the world comes to peace, then I made the wrong decision. You make the best decision you can when you have to make it, and that’s where we are. Now the world is in turmoil.”


Del Rio believes ISIS to be the biggest threat to tourism since 9/11. “I think what we saw with ISIS is more dangerous than al-Qaeda. Until we have ISIS under control, the whole world is at risk. ISIS has done a hell of a job in creating fear. San Bernardino. Paris. Istanbul. It can hit anywhere.”


Del Rio says the good news is that people are still vacationing. “Alaska is doing really good. The Baltic is doing really good, Bermuda is doing real good, and so on. The Med is not okay.”

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