There are mixed messages about cruising to Turkey, following a spate of terrorist attacks in the last six months and the failed military coup two weeks ago.
A number of cruise lines stopped calling on Turkey following the June 29th ISIS-inspired terrorist attack at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul when three suicide bombers exploded powerful devices that killed over 40 people and injured over 230 others. This latest attack came after at least eight terror attacks in Turkey dating back a year.
On July 15th, a coup led by some military officers failed. President Erdogad responded by engaging in what the New York Times is calling a "widespread purge, jailing and suspending tens of thousands of state employees . . . " The Times further notes that "the military that has long served as a unifying force for the country is deeply divided, diminished and discredited."
The U.S. State Department "warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. In light of the July 15 coup attempt and the resulting potential for interruptions to travel and daily life, we suggest U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Turkey at this time."
The Maritime Executive published an article yesterday stating that even before the failed revolt, terrorist attacks had prompted cruise operators to reduce their stops in Turkey. But the July 15th coup attempt caused cruise lines to cut back further on scheduled port calls in Istanbul and other Turkish ports. It quoted a travel agent stating that "I would not feel comfortable sending people on holiday in the next few months. [The coup attempt] is more damaging for tourism than the terror attacks.”
But other publications are suggesting that the cruise business in Turkey has already bounced back to what it was before the coup attempt. The Turkish Daily Sabah says that a representative of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) reported that the failed coup attempt caused only "slight losses" in Turkey’s cruise tourism sector. According to the Daily Sabah, Cihangir Canıyılmaz, the marketing director of Royal Caribbean in Turkey, said that shortly after the coup attempt, that the cruise line canceled 46 cruise voyages to Kuşadasi and five voyages to Bodrum until the end of year. However, he claims that Royal Caribbean has resumed cruises to Turkey on July 20th, following President Erdogad’s declaration of the state of emergency on July 20th, and the number of tourists in the country remains high.
Whether that is true or just wishful thinking by the tourist people in Turkey, it is concerning that the Turkish military, which has been an ally of the U.S. in fighting terrorism and in curtailing the threat of ISIS, is now diminished. The military in Turkey was also vital in "controlling the migrant tide that has overwhelmed Europe," as the Times puts it.
Turkey is a beautiful country with a spectacular history and architecture, filled with warm and friendly people. It is a wonderful place to visit. But with its recent history of ISIS terrorist attacks and migrants at sea and ashore, cruising to Turkey may cause a prudent traveler to pause and reconsider.
Photo of Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque: By Dersaadet – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Photo of Istanbul credit: By Ben Morlok – Istanbul panorama, CC BY-SA 2.0.