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. 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=KxIDlZAHWOg%3Frel%3D0

A number of news sources are reporting that the Tunisian government prohibited Israeli passengers from disembarking from a cruise ship at a stop at the Port of Tunis.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), a U.S.-based cruise line, told the Israeli citizens that they were not welcome by the Tunisian government and had to stay aboard the cruise ship.

The ship involved is the Norwegian Jade.

B’nai Brith Canada released a statement yesterday stating that there were approximately 20 Israelis Norwegian Jade - Tunis Tunisiaon board the NCL ship. They did not know in advance that they could not leave the ship during the port of call.

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), “the cruise line had a responsibility to its passengers and (to) advise them of this discriminatory policy in advance,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Frank Dimant said in a statement. “Better still the cruise line should avoid ports that have such policies.”

The cruise blog Cruise Hive publishes a statement by NCL about the incident:

“During Norwegian Jade’s port call in La Goulette, Tunisia on Sunday, March 9, 2014, a small number of guests holding Israeli passports were not allowed to go ashore because of a last minute decision made by the Tunisian Government. Port taxes for the call in Tunisia are being refunded to these guests.

We apologize for any inconvenience to our guests and appreciate their understanding. We are reviewing this decision with the appropriate officials.”

NCL’s statement is pathetic. NCL should not be down-playing the incident like this. The Tunisian government’s action should be immediately and unequivocally denounced in the strongest language possible.

This is not about returning nominal port taxes to inconvenienced guests. It is about much deeper and important issues. No citizens of any nation should be subjected to such discrimination.  The fact that an Arab nation would exhibit such contempt and hostility against Israel is particularly despicable.

What lessons were learned from the hijacking of the Achilles Lauro cruise ship and the murder of passenger Leon Klinghoffer? Have we forgotten his death and the terror inflicted by an Arab terrorist group against cruise ship passengers in the Mediterranean and ending in the murder of a Jewish passenger?

Tunisia’s actions sent a clear message to Israeli citizens.  NCL’s response should be equally clear. The only reasonable action is for NCL and the cruise industry to boycott Tunis as a port.

Tunisia Cruise Shipping Miami 2014March 11, 2014 Update:  NCL is boycotting Tunisia.  Here’s the NCL statement by CEO Sheehan:

“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests. We are outraged by this act and the fact that we were not notified in advance of this practice. We apologize sincerely to our guests who were affected and want them to know that we have taken the appropriate action in response.” 

NCL announced the boycott during the Cruise Shipping Miami (CSM2014) today.  I walked by the Tunisia delegation (photo left). They must be feeling rather foolish.

 

Photo Credit: Top – Wikipedia / Ivan T.; bottom – Jim Walker

The disturbing trend of violence against the U.S. in places like Libya and Egypt is causing the cruise lines to scramble to swap out ports of call in North Africa for ports in Italy and Malta.

HAL’s Ryndam skipped a port Tunisia yesterday and instead visited Sardinia, Italy. Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas will avoid Alexandria, Egypt next week and will call on Sicily and Valletta, Malta on the next two days. Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth skipped a call today in Alexandria and will visit Rhodes tomorrow. 

Cruise Ship Terrorism - Achille LauraCruise ships have long been considered likely targets for jihadist terrorists.

In April I blogged about a plot where Arab terrorists envisioned hijacking a U.S. based cruise ship, forcing the passengers to wear orange Guantanamo-like jump suits and then videotaping their execution.

There are numerous studies by security companies and U.S. governmental organizations which have studied terrorist organizations and concluded that terrorism against cruise ships is likely. Take a look at this report by the RAND organization.

The World Cruise Industry Review publication concluded that the most likely terrorist scenario is the hijacking of a cruise ship and its passengers: "A cruise ship is boarded and commandeered, while perpetrators hold and potentially injure or kill passengers if demands are not met – as in the Achille Lauro attack." 

When I was a kid, my family lived in Tripoli Libya starting in 1965 until the 80’s.  The Libyan people back then (mostly Sunni Muslims) were peaceful.  But today?  Libya, Egypt, Tunisia or Morocco are the last places on earth I would sail my family to.   

Cruise ships are simply not equipped to handle a terrorist attack. Cruise ship security can’t even handle drunk passengers.  And I would not trust the port authorities in these Arab countries to provide adequate protection against Islamic fanatics strapped with explosives who would love to blow up a cruise ship with Americans aboard. 

 

Update:  Join the discussion on our facebook page – most viewers don’t have a high regard for the ability of cruise ship security guards to protect your family from al-Qaeda. 

 

Newspaper credit: Sea Fever