Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oceania Nautica Cancels Important African Ports of Call

The last few days have been very frustrating and disappointing for a number of my clients who booked the Oceania Nautica's December 11, 2010 cruise from Capetown, South Africa to Singapore.  The reason is that the ports of Dar El Salaam and Zanzibar in Tanzania and Mombasa, Kenya were cancelled and replaced with port calls in more or less island/beach locales; clearly of an entirely different flavor.

Thus folks are now going to be taking a cruise that misses exactly why they were, in large part, taking this particular cruise.  In fact, two of clients selected this cruise because The Yachts of Seabourn cancelled a similar cruise about a year ago over security issues.  The difference is, of course, now these folks have paid in full and are in a significant penalty situation and, thus, have no real choice but to go.

I contacted Oceania about the situation and Senior Management was very quick to respond (always a very good thing) and offered that sharing the following information might be helpful.  While it may not take away any of the sting of disappointment, I believe the explanation is excellent and really explains that decisions such as this one are very expensive and not lightly made:

If there's anything that all cruise lines agree on, it's that there is no greater priority than the safety of our guests and crew. Unfortunately, eleventh-hour itinerary changes become necessary now and then to avoid the path of a storm in the Caribbean, because of political turmoil in the Middle East or for other reasons. (And Murphy's Law says that whatever ports are canceled are the ones that our guests were most looking forward to visiting).


With regard to this particular cruise, we received information from private security companies we work with in different parts of the world that certain potential risks existed if we went to these ports. (Not everything appears in newspapers, online or on TV). We checked with other sources and then after much discussion decided Sunday night to cancel these ports. We spent much of Monday finalizing a new itinerary and we began sending emails that night to advise our customers.

As disappointed as your clients are, we're even more disappointed. A lot of planning goes into developing our itineraries and when a significant change is necessary, we know it can upset some of our guests, which in turn upsets our travel agent partners. It creates quite a lot of additional work for us as we have to arrange for substitute ports and try to create a new itinerary that minimizes the differences from the original. Then we have to cancel all of our shore excursion arrangements in the canceled ports and make brand new arrangements with relatively little time compared to the normal planning that takes place. Nobody wins, except perhaps for the ground operators in the substitute ports.

Yes, ship happens and it happened here.  Hurricane.  Broken pod.  Strike in Marseilles. Whatever.  Travel is a fantastic thing...sometimes, though, it isn't perfect and there is nothing that can be done about it except to find a way to enjoy the change as best you can...and maybe, just maybe, there will be a pleasant surprise. 
 
However, if you don't look for it you may never find it.