Another major cruise line drops Baltic cruises in wake of Ukraine war

Mar 17, 2022

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Make that three of the world’s biggest cruise lines that have pulled the plug on a wide swath of Baltic sailings in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Europe-based MSC Cruises on Wednesday canceled all Baltic cruises for the year on its 4,842-passenger MSC Grandiosa — one of several ships it had scheduled to operate in the region.

The 2-year-old vessel instead will sail to the Norwegian Fjords, the line said.

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Two more MSC Cruises ships, the 3,502-passenger MSC Preziosa and 2,550-passenger MSC Poesia also will adjust their schedules to spend more of the year in the Norwegian fjords instead of the Baltic.

The announcement from MSC Cruises came just two days after Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises canceled a significant number of their Baltic sailings for the year.

Norwegian on Monday notified travel agents it had canceled all Baltic departures scheduled to take place from June 14 to Oct. 9 on the 3,963-passenger Norwegian Getaway.

Norwegian also canceled additional Norwegian Getaway departures scheduled to take place in other parts of Europe between Oct. 18 and Nov. 27.

Norwegian Getaway will be redeployed, but Norwegian has yet to say where.

Princess on Monday dropped all round-trip Baltic sailings out of Copenhagen, Denmark, on the 3,660-passenger Enchanted Princess for the year.

All of the world’s major cruise lines, including MSC Cruises, Norwegian and Princess pulled calls at St. Petersburg, Russia, from Baltic itineraries in the days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, citing safety concerns for passengers and crew. But initially the lines were adamant that the Baltic cruises would still operate, albeit with slightly changed itineraries.

“The Baltic ships will stay in the Baltic, [and] the Med[iterranean] ships will stay in the Med,” Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and CEO Frank Del Rio told Wall Street analysts during a conference call on Feb. 24, the day Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is the parent company of Norwegian, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises.

This week’s cancellation of large swaths of Baltic cruises at MSC Cruises, Norwegian and Princess is a sign the lines were struggling to hold on to bookings for the itineraries without St. Petersburg on the schedule.

Related: The ultimate guide to picking a cruise line

Known as Russia’s cultural capital and famous for its historic palaces and museums, St. Petersburg is considered the main attraction of Baltic sailings. Cruise ships that sail in the region often dock in the city for two or three days to allow for extended touring.

In a statement, Princess acknowledged the booking downturn, saying it canceled the Baltic sailings on Enchanted Princess “due to commercial considerations related to this ship’s full season of Baltic cruises.”

Noting “stronger demand for cruising from the U.K.” for the coming summer season, Princess said it would move Enchanted Princess to Southampton, England, for non-Baltic sailings.

Princess will continue to operate select Baltic cruises on two other vessels based in Europe for the coming summer, the 2,200-passenger Island Princess and 3,660-passenger Sky Princess.

Norwegian also will continue to operate a handful of Baltic cruises, including a few early season sailings on Norwegian Getaway and several more sailings scheduled to take place on its 2,340-passenger Norwegian Dawn.

Another major Baltic cruise operator, Viking, on Monday announced that it was significantly revamping its 14-night Baltic itinerary — known as Viking Homelands — for the summer. The itinerary now will be much more focused on Norway and Denmark.

In addition to dropping St. Petersburg from the itinerary, which was previously announced, Viking on Monday said it would drop Helsinki, Finland, and Tallinn, Estonia, from the itinerary. Added stops include an overnight stay in Oslo, Norway, and a visit to Bornholm, Denmark.

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Featured image courtesy of MSC Cruises.

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