Cruise Refugees MediterraneanYesterday, I commented on our Facebook page on the report of a cruise passenger that the Norwegian Spirit, together with the Italian Coast Guard, were involved in assisting what were initially believed to be 300 Syrian immigrants at sea. The NCL cruise ship left Naples heading for Mikonos. A passenger said that that according to captain, the Italian Coast Guard took care of most of refugees and the NCL ship took two pregnant woman onboard who will be medevaced by helicopter for medical treatment. 

The incident was widely reported on television in Europe today.  Euronews reported today that the refugees initially believed to be from Syria, were Sudanese, Somalis and Egyptians. News accounts showed an Italian Coast Guard vessel taking hundreds of refugees aboard as well as medevacing a pregnant woman from what is reported to be the Norwegian Spirit.

Our posting of the event on Facebook sparked a number of hateful comments about refugees from the Middle East and Africa.  There is a long standing maritime tradition of providing aid to people at sea. But many people called the refugees "terrorists," although these poor people were probably fleeing from terror in their home countries.

Fear of refugees at sea is increasingly becoming a part of the debate whether U.S. travelers believe that it is safe to cruise in the Mediterranean this summer. Fox News Travel reports today that "the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and Turkey over the last year haven’t dissuaded Americans from visiting Europe, but they appear to be having an effect on the cruise line industry. Fewer Americans are signing up for Mediterranean cruises this year, according to executives at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Cruises, indicating that the attacks by Islamic State jihadists are affecting the industry."

Travel Market Report says today that "Norwegian Cruise Line released its first-quarter financial results this week, (and) it acknowledged that the attacks in Europe have impacted its bookings mainly among just one customer base: North America."

The Cruise Critic web site stated today that Carnival Cruise Line has canceled calls on the port of Izmir, Turkey, on all upcoming sailings of Carnival Vista, following a warning from the U.S. State Department. Cruise Critic says that "Izmir was specifically named in a March 29 travel advisory from the State Department, which warned against unnecessary travel to southeastern Turkey due to an increased risk of terrorist activity targeting American travelers."

If U.S. national politics are any indication, there is a significant percentage of U.S. citizens who are xenophobic and view Arab refugees as potential trouble.

Have a thought?  Please join the discussion on our Facebook page.

  • Davidp

    Of course a significant amount of US citizens are xenophobic. How do you explain Donald Trump’s assent?

  • Lynette Hogue

    I was on the Norwegian Spirit when this incident happened. I can tell you it was a profound moment for the majority of passengers. Upon arriving at the location of the boat filled with almost 300 refugees, the NCL Spirit passengers became so silent. I think the general sense was that we knew it was a moment in time that we were showing our obligation of human kindness. Word was the boat had been at sea for 15 days but only had food for 5 days to feed all those people. It definitely was the right thing to do for that moment.

  • Gabys

    I was a crew member at Norwegian Spirit when all this happened. For us, crew members, was a very delicated moment. Some of us were terrified about the possibility of bringing those people onboard. One of my friends said that the Captain was putting the whole ship in danger, just because they are from Syria(at that moment, we’re all still thinking that they were from Syria), and if they are from there, they “automatically become terrorists”. For me, and for those who were at “stand by”, just waiting to bring them aboard, it was everything very intensive. I couldn’t think in nothing else, from where they came from, where they’re going, nothing. All I could see, was a small boat, full of miserable and very scared people, who are trying to find peace and happiness. Sometimes, they pay thousands of dollars to be in that boat, without even knowing if they will reach their “dream land” or not. That pregnant woman. Can you imagine how desperated she was to be in that boat? She was about to give birth, but, maybe, all she could think, was having her baby away from the hell where she was living. After all that situation was finished, I went to my cabin for my 2 hours break, and I all did was cry! I never felt so bad about other people. And at the same time, I never felt so blessed for everything I have. Even that I’m not a rich person, that day made me think how lucky I am to have every single thing I have, small or big. I still wonder about what happened to those poor people. The Italian Coast Guard took them all, and I really hope they are in a safe and good place right now, starting again theirs lives, in some place where they can finally be happy.

  • Helen Bourke

    Good for NCL for showing some humanitarian decency.