In a not altogether surprising move, MSC Cruises has decided not to go ahead with it’s winter programme of Red Sea cruises, scheduled to be carried out by the Armonia. Citing escalating violence and international tensions in its reasoning, the line is instead to deploy the 58,000 ton stalwart on two different, seven day Canaries and Morocco itineraries, both starting and finishing in Gran Canaria.
One itinerary will call in at Tenerife, Madeira, Las Palmas and San Sebastian. The second will showcase Agadir, Casablanca, Puerto Del Rosario, and Lanzarote.
Both itineraries are combinable to create a fourteen day round trip sailing. They are on sale as of Wednesday, July 24th.
With the Red Sea itineraries scrapped, it remains to be seen whether other companies such as Costa and Thomson will follow the example of both MSC and Holland America in curtailing their current planned Egyptian deployments.
The Armonia originally began life as the European Vision, built in 2001 for the ultimately ill fated Festival Cruises. That line fell a victim to the fallout from 9/11, and after a spell in lay up off Barbados, she was sold to MSC and entered service for them as Armonia in May of 2004.
Prospective passengers wishing to escape the UK winter blues will find the Armonia to be a comfortably sized ship. She has some 783 cabins in all, including 132 with private balconies, and a total passenger capacity of 1,556 based on lower berth numbers.
Distinctively Italian themed and beautifully styled, Armonia has two outdoor pools, numerous indoor and outdoor bars, several lounges, and entertainment which, in typical MSC style, is aimed across several languages, with the emphasis mainly on visual shows and productions.
Armonia is now one of the smaller ships in the MSC fleet, along with her sister ship, MSC Sinfonia, and is typically used to explore the potential of new markets for the company brand. She has been a staple on the highly popular, port intensive Red Sea itineraries for a couple of years now. Sailing from Sharm El-Sheik, the Armonia offered a series of seven night round trips to the highlights of the Red Sea each winter, typically from November through until April.
Where this leaves the increasingly fragile middle eastern market is difficult to see. Norwegian also have Norwegian Jade scheduled for some calls at Alexandria over the winter at the time of writing. The Egyptian city had been combined with several ports in Israel to create some alternative warm weather options through the winter months.
But unless the situation in Egypt calms down soon- and that’s unlikely in the extreme- then the entire mid east cruise market could go into meltdown.