River cruises, land tours canceled as evacuation from Egypt begins

While at least 2,400 U.S. citizens are seeking evacuation from Egypt today, only two charter planes arranged by the U.S. Department of State have taken left the scene , one landing in Cyprus and the other on the way to Athens, Greece. It looks like it is going to take some time to make those evacuation plans happen.

“People should be prepared for a very long wait,” Janice Jacobs, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for consular affairs told CNN.

With an estimated 52,000 Americans in Egypt, 2,400 have requested assistance evacuating. The US Department of State has issued a warning against traveling to Egypt and noted that those interested in evacuation People interested in evacuation via U.S. government-chartered transportation should contact the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo by sending an e-mail to EgyptEmergencyUSC@state.gov or by calling 1-202-501-4444.

Egypt land tours and Nile river cruises have been suspended with tour operators Abercrombie and Kent, Trafalgar tours, Uniworld, Avalon Waterways, Grand Circle Travel and Gate 1 Travel all canceling operations.

“It’s an absolute zoo, what a mess,” Justine Khanzadian, 23, a graduate student from the American University of Cairo told AOL Travel.

MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines, both scheduled to call at Alexandria, Egypt have modified their itineraries. The Norwegian Jade called at Istanbul Sunday. MSC Magnifica called at Limassol, Cyprus on Sunday and is calling at Haifa, Israel today. MSC Splendida will call at Izmir, Turkey.

Some of the popular tourist attractions in Alexandria, Egypt include Pompeii’s Pillar, The Tombs of Al-Anfushi, The Graeco-Roman Museum and The Museum of Fine Arts, known for its rich collection of sculptures, paintings and architectural works.

Flickr photo by Deanster 1983

Breaking: More drugs found on cruise ship

UPDATE: Less than a month ago we told you about the cruise line crew accused of smuggling drugs into the Port of Baltimore. Now we have learned that authorities found more drugs on the same ship.

When U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents boarded Royal Caribbean International’s Enchantment of the Seas Tuesday, they had good reason. Last month agents found 700 grams of heroin and 300 grams of cocaine hidden in the waistband and shoes of the crew member, The drugs had been picked up from a Jamaican man in the Dominican Republic, brought on to the ship, to be sold once they reached the United States.

“If we already encountered an incident where drugs were discovered on the ship, we’re more than likely going to take another look at the vessel further down the road,” Steve Sapp, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection told the Baltimore Sun.

In this discovery, $94,000 worth of cocaine was found wrapped in duct tape by a drug-sniffing dog in a common area of the ship, accessible by any crew member. No arrests have been made.

“It could be just about anybody,” Sapp said. “It would be really difficult for us to bring in everyone for an interview.”

This is not good news for Royal Caribbean or the cruise industry. The ongoing investigation aboard Enchantment of the Seas indicates that Federal authorities are beginning to target cruise ships for drug smuggling operations. Frequently visiting Caribbean islands where drugs are plentiful and easily distributed, the supply side of smuggling has minimal risk. Crew members with access to all areas of ships can find plenty of places to hide the contraband.

Last week’s raid on MSC Cruises Poesia and the would-be high times Jam Fest cruise added a different but similar focus, targeting passengers.

Royal Caribbean, along with other cruise lines, maintains a zero tolerance policy for illegal drugs on their ships. Look for TSA-like security precautions on cruise ships in the near future. This is inevitable. The cruise industry has always been a model for insuring the safety and security of passengers and crew at sea. This recent news, combined with their intense ongoing commitment to safety and security will bring new procedures.

It’s just a matter of which line will be first.

Flickr photo by anythiene


Breaking: Jam Fest cruise busted: No high times on high seas

It was supposed to be rock and roll and fun and games on MSC Cruises Poesia this week on it’s Jam Cruise to the Western Caribbean. Instead they got a full dose of US Customs and Border Protection medicine when the ship was raided and passengers busted for illegal drugs and contraband while docked at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Called Jam Cruise 9, the Cloud 9 Adventures event cruise scheduled from January 4th through 9th was to visit Roatan, Honduras and Costa Maya, Mexico.

The January 4Th operation resulted in 15 seizures of Marijuana, LSD, mushrooms, hash oil, Ecstasy, prescription drugs and drug paraphernalia in mostly small quantities, CPB spokeswoman Migdalia Travis told SunSentinel.com

Agents and K-9 officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S.Marshals Service; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Broward County Florida Sheriff’s Office participated in the raid, Travis said.


Flickr photo by Jemingway

New cruise ships on the horizon

A testament to the popularity of cruise vacations, a bunch of new cruise ships are on the horizon and coming out in 2011, 2012 and beyond.

The recent worldwide recession has caused cruise lines to redeploy ships to more profitable waters with Royal Caribbean pulling out of the West coast US market altogether. But new ships on order, while slowed during recession’s lowest point, have returned with several new orders made in just the last few months.

  • Celebrity Cruises sails Celebrity Silhouette in the Fall of 2011 followed by another yet-named ship in the Spring of 2012
  • Costa Cruise Line’s new Costa Favlosa sets sail in the Summer of 2011 ahead of Costa Fascinosa in Spring 2012
  • Disney Cruise Lines new Disney Dream sails in January 2011, followed by Disney Fantasy in 2012, more than doubling the size of the Disney fleet
  • MSC Cruises continues to grow with MSC Fantastica in May 2012
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines, still high off the debut of Norwegian Epic last July has ordered two more ships to debut Spring 2013 and 2014
  • Princess Cruises also has two new unnamed ships on order, one for 2013 and one for 2014
  • Seaboun Cruises who just added Seabourn Sojourn this year, will add Seabourn Quest in May 2011

As the cruise industry continues to grow and mature, look for more new-builds and the refurbishment of older ships to add new-ship features during scheduled dry-dock maintenance.

You Deserve a Cruise: A place for finding cruise deals

Back in January when I was writing about cruise line deals, I thought that if they are such a deal, I should go on one. That’s what I’m doing in August. My mom, son and I are heading to Venice in August to hop on MSC’s Musica Greek Island cruise. My mom and I were half price and had a free upgrade to a superior ocean view balcony room and my son is free. That’s right FREE. All children ages 17 and under are free with an accompanying adult on all MSC cruises, all the time.

Cruise lines are continuing to be a travel bargain thanks to a campaign held by Cruise Lines International. According to this article in Mercury News the campaign, “You Deserve a Cruise” is highlighting travel deals for later this year and on into next year. There are 23 participating cruise lines which means you can probably find a cruise that matches your tastes and your budget. Here’s a link to the Web site, plus you can check out the deals on the Web sites on the participating cruise lines. MSC is listed as one of them.

The article gives a rundown of some of the deals and perks and tells how to get them. Booking in advance is one way. That’s what we did to get our deal, plus the agent we worked with was able to snag us the better rate for an upgraded room.

The message is cruise lines want passengers and are willing to toss you incentives to tip you over to pulling out that credit card. I’m glad took the bait. I certainly deserve a cruise. And so does my mother. My son gets to go because the way I see it, his presence makes my share of the trip cost a real bargain. With kids’ activities on board, I’m assured some me time. With the money I’ve saved, maybe I will treat myself to a spa treatment. I deserve that too.