Just a week after cruise lines modified port calls in Turkey, three cruise lines have stopped calling on the Greek island of Lesbos. Lesbos, also sometimes called Mytilene which is the capital and port city, has been the destination of many of those trying to escape Syria and neighboring countries. The refugees have completely overwhelmed the small island and battered the already economically weak Greek government. In recent days, there have been demonstrations and small outbreaks of violence.
Silversea has rescheduled its Lesbos stop for September 26. Silver Spirit will stop in Myrina, Lemnos, instead. Regent Seven Seas altered the itinerary for Seven Seas Mariner, replacing a call at Mytilene with a day at sea. Oceania’s Riviera, which was also scheduled to stop at Lesbos, replaced the port visit with Kavala, Greece. The three cruise lines all said that they will monitor the situation and resume port calls when they feel there is no risk and the island’s infrastructure can once again support cruise ship tourists.
The island’s tourism industry has been hard hit this year, down as much as 40% from last year. This is a combination of the worsening economy in Greece and the vast number of refugees. Some refugees are spending money in restaurants and similar facilities but the majority of actual true tourists are few and mostly from the cruise ships.
The news this week concerning the refugees has been conflicting. According to the Athens-Macedonia News Agency, 29,260 refugees are said to have left the island this week. There are reportedly no refugees and migrants left on the island of Mytilene. However, CBC published reports saying that the city of Mytilene is free of refugees but the official camp named Moria has about 25,000 remaining. They claimed while 4,000 left this week, 4,000 more arrived in their place. It is said that most of the remaining refugees on the island are from Afghanistan and they are aggravated that Syrians were given priority in moving to the main land and have more opportunities to travel to other EU countries. Some newspapers quoted recent cruise ship passengers who state they saw many overloaded small boats headed for the island of Lesbos.
The Eastern Mediterranean has become a more dangerous place lately and cruise lines are starting to look at long-term alternatives.