Wish you were here...? Cruise firm sets sail for world's trouble spots
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Tuesday 10 April 2012
Sedate ports of call such as Gibraltar and Valletta are being displaced on Europe's navigation charts by a trio of strife-torn cities: Algiers, Beirut and Belfast. Britain's biggest holiday company, TUI, has set a course for conflict zones for its Thomson Cruises brand for next year.
With appetites for safe European favourites apparently sated, the firm has decided to venture to two Mediterranean ports that have not been regular cruise-ship calls since the 1970s. From next summer, passengers will be able to explore Algiers, where the Foreign Office currently urges British tourists to "exercise extreme caution at all times", adding: "You should arrange, if possible, to be met on arrival in Algiers."
The man who devised the itinerary that includes the Algerian capital is Neil Duncan, of Thomson Cruises. He insisted: "The tours and visits to the city will be absolutely fine, and customers will be very safe going there."
However, he confirmed that, if trouble flares in the region, contingency plans include switching to safer ports of call in Tunisia or Morocco.
Despite Lebanon's civil war being long over, the country and its capital are still regarded as high risk by the Foreign Office, which warns of "a general threat from terrorism" and says: "Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers."
Thomson, which is Britain's third-largest cruise company, has also devised a new Black Sea itinerary that includes the battlefields of the Crimea. It is aimed at military historians and tourists who are keen to visit a region previously off-limits to mainstream package holidays.
The ship departs from Marmaris in Turkey and visits the naval base of Sevastopol, close to the site of the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854, when British cavalry led by Lord Cardigan fought Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. "The Black Sea is an area that cruisers are fascinated with and they want to experience," said Fraser Ellacott, managing director of Thomson Cruises. Passengers will be offered excursions to the "Valley of Death". Also on the circuit is Constanta on Romania's Black Sea coast, from which excursions will run to the land-locked capital, Bucharest. The city of Belfast, where RMS Titanic was completed a century ago, features on an around-the-UK itinerary. Shore excursions are likely to feature the Nationalist and Republican murals on the Shankhill and Falls Roads, testimony to the Troubles that tore Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland apart.
The main claim to fame of Torquay, another port on the round-Britain itinerary, is as the location that inspired the tourism-related TV comedy, Fawlty Towers.
After two decades of steady growth and robust profits, cruising is experiencing severe turbulence following the shipwreck of Costa Concordia in January, which killed more than 30 passengers and crew.
Since the Italian liner struck rocks and capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio, the "new to cruise" market on which the industry depends to fuel further expansion has dwindled.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
£24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...
£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...