Forgive me if you have sought my advice in the past few days and I have so far failed to respond. It’s been a busy old week, what with the opening round of the next US presidential election taking the form of an assassination drone deployed into the powder keg of the Middle East, and the fall-out for travellers.
Forgive me, too, if I have responded – at least if you are among the many prospective holidaymakers who have asked whether they should forfeit their planned trip to Dubai in the next few days or weeks. My six-word response may have seemed unhelpfully brief: “I wouldn’t. Have a great trip.”
Let me expand upon it now, with a special nod to Gary, Hazel and Terry – who, I hope, will meet next weekend in Southeast Asia, since they all happen to have contacted me about one specific cruise.
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Celebrity Constellation sails out of Singapore next Friday. Over the following two weeks she will call at a series of spicy and exotic locations including the Thai island of Phuket, Colombo, Cochin, Mumbai and Muscat.
Her finale comprises a cruise through the Strait of Hormuz followed by two nights in Dubai.
I can think of worse ways to spend the second half of January. Yet each of those people say they are on the verge of cancelling because of events in the Gulf.
Which, at the risk of sounding harsh, looks an odd decision. The geography of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf has not changed with the start of a new year. Dubai, where the cruise ends, is still 100 miles from the shores of Iran. The Strait of Hormuz remains 25 miles across at its narrowest point, and the waters are still shared between Iran and Oman.
You may think the cruise trio are wisely displaying an abundance of caution in uncertain times. After all, would any sensible traveller choose to visit a place where the Foreign Office says: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks” or for which the State Department warns: “Anti-western terrorist groups, some on the US government’s list of foreign terrorist organisations, are active”?
Well, Gary, Hazel and Terry did. Because those cautions are, respectively, the official UK advice for Sri Lanka and America warning about India. Exactly the same official advice prevailed when they booked voyages on Celebrity Constellation calling in on those great nations.
By comparison, the current warnings for the other locations, including Dubai, look mild.
Were I fortunate enough to be onboard, the marine highlight would be the very last leg, through the Strait of Hormuz. Like its counterparts, the Bosphorus and the Strait of Gibraltar, it is the conduit between two worlds.
To starboard, the might of Iran and central Asia; to port, the filigree fjords of Oman’s Musandam peninsula provide an overture to Arabia. And if her captain and crew are prepared to make this part of the voyage, I am happy to sail with them.
Gary, Hazel and Terry could choose to miss the spectacle by jumping ship at Muscat and continuing by road to Dubai for their flights home. But travelling 280 miles overland in a part of the world with a horrifying road death toll looks too risky to me.
Instead, they should make the most of the opportunity to sail this particular itinerary on Celebrity Constellation, because she will soon go west.
Plans to base her in Dubai next winter have been scrapped. Instead, perhaps through an abundance of caution, she will sail from Tampa in Florida into a very different body of water: the Gulf of Mexico.
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