Reports of rising anti-American sentiment in parts of Europe in the face of the Kosovo conflict have led to cancellations and booking declines of passengers due to travel soon, while passengers set to cruise in the late spring and summer maintain a "wait-and-see" attitude.
"The Kosovo conflict bas bad an impact on bookings - we've seen a decline in new bookings and an increase in cancellations," said Cy Hopkins, president and CEO of Royal Olympic Cruises.
The line sails out of Piraeus to ports in the Mediterranean, Greek Islands, Middle East and Turkey. Hopkins noted reports of anti-Americanism in some of those regions, but added that he didn't think it was an issue for passengers.
Hopkins said no cruises bad been canceled and no itineraries changed. He would not say how many passenger cancellations there have been.
Peter Deilmann Reederi has cancelled two calls that the Berlin was due to make this month to the Port of Venice. Apart from that, "all the ships that include Venice have confirmed their schedules," said Capt. Giuseppe Fabbro, managing director of the Venezia Terminal Passegeri.
Windstar Cruises, Cunard Line Limited, Seabourn Cruise Line, Holland America Line (HAL) and Festival Cruises are among the lines rerouting ships in the Med because of NATO bombings. Windstar said it would pull out of Dubrovnik and Rab for the rest of the year, and canceled 12 port calls scheduled for the Wind Surf on Rome-Venice sailings between May and October. HAL said it would replace Dubrovnik as a port-of-call on the Maasdam's three sailings from Venice in April and May. Festival said it will replace the Azur's planned port calls in Korcula, Croatia, with calls in Corfu, Greece. Cunard and Seabourn have altered routes of five ships: the Vistafjord , Sea Goddess I and ll and the Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend. The ships will call on Italian ports on the West Coast of the Adriatic instead of ports on the east side of the Adriatic. The itineraries of 21 cruises are being altered between April and September. In addition, Mediterranean Shipping Cruises (MSC) will replace the Symphony's call to Dubrovnik with a call to Kithira, Greece. Sailings begin June 12.
"This is our momentary decision based on the situation," said Antonio De Rosa, vice president marketing/sales/operations for MSC. De Rosa added that other changes will be necessary if the conflict continues into the summer. Meanwhile, Holland America's Maasdam makes its first call to Venice on April 18.
At press time, a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean International (RCI) and Celebrity Cruises, said itinerary changes were being discussed for the Splendour of the Seas and the Century. Both ships call at Venice. The spokesperson said an announcement could be made by April 16.
Ron Santangelo, president of North and South America operations for Peter Deilmann, said six Black Sea riverboat sailings have been canceled. "We are now only going as far as Budapest," Santangelo said.
The six 10- to 11-day sailings, scheduled for May, June and July, have been replaced by seven-night sailings, followed by four nights on land in various parts of Germany.
The riverboats will sail the Danube to Romania, but will not pass Hungary, Santangelo said. "We will not go back to the regular schedule this year," Santangelo said.
Travel agents agreed that the conflict has prompted cancellations, but insist the damage to business is not as bad as expected. "Up to this point we haven't been getting any new bookings," said John Werner, president of the Travel Group International. "Of what we have on the books, none have been canceled; those who put a deposit down aren't cancelling."
Sue Shapiro, president of Giants, noted that press reports of anti-American sentiments in Europe and Russia have not caused great worry. "I'm just not hearing lots of complaints. I'm hearing some and maybe cancellations are higher than they were before this started - but not overwhelmingly," she said. "Cruise lines have been great about changing itineraries and even a few passengers have said to me they still wanted to go to Dubrovnik. But I imagine those clients are the exception rather than the rule."