Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten will fly the Columbus' 246 passengers and majority of its crew over the pirate-plagued Gulf of Aden rather than risk a security breech, the cruise line said Tuesday.

The line had requested protection from the German Navy while the Columbus transited the area, but the request was denied, a Hapag-Lloyd spokeswoman said. For security reasons, the line did not reveal where the passengers were disembarking the ship.

No decision has yet been made on whether the 408-passenger Europa will fulfill its planned sailing through the area in April, she said. One problem might be selling such a cruise: The Columbus has a capacity of 420 passengers and was sailing with just 246 on its current itinerary after 26 passengers took the line's option to cancel free of charge after recent piracy incidents.

Passengers on the Columbus are on a world tour that started in Genoa. They will have a three-day stay in a 5-star hotel in Dubai, and then rejoin the ship in Sallalah/Oman to continue their cruise. The hotel and air transfers are free of charge for all passengers.

A skeleton crew will remain on board to ensure the smooth passage through the Gulf of Aden. The crew remaining on board, as well as the passengers disembarking agree with these measures, and support the decision of the cruise ship company, the cruise line said.