Like many other people, I’ve been watching the events in Greece with a sort of horrified fascination. It brings home – well, it does to me – that the world we live in is very artificial, and that confidence is big part in keeping that world going. (Let me make it clear that I wouldn’t ever want to live in a world where the only medium of exchange was cash, and that what represented ‘cash’ was determined by the recipient.) Part of me can understand the positions taken by both sides: on the one hand, nations should of course be held responsible for the debts they take on, but on the other hand if in practice they can’t repay them then other arrangements have to be made. I think my wife has summed it up very eloquently: “None of the players in this Greek tragedy have covered themselves in glory”. One thing seems to be certain – the Greeks are going to pay a very heavy price.
But let’s pull back from the more apocalyptic scenarios. Athens and the Aegean & Ionian islands are very popular calls for cruise ships during the summer. I’ve been doing a quick scout round the schedules and this seems to be the position in the main destinations:-
- Pireaus (for Athens): Island Princess today; Celebrity Reflection, Norwegian Jade and Mein Schiff 3 tomorrow (7th); AIDAstella and Rhapsody of the Seas on Wednesday (8th); and MSC Opera, MSC Musica and Vision of the Seas on Thursday (9th). In addition, Celestyal Olympia is due to start a cruise from Piraeus today. (Celestyal Cruises is the current name for what used to be the Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Line.)
- Mykonos: Celebrity Reflection, Celestyal Olympia, Reflection of the Seas and Celestyal Odyssey today (6th); MSC Lirica tomorrow (7th); Mein Schiff 3 Wednesday (8th); and Star Pride (Windstar Cruises) Thursday (9th);
- Santorini: Seabourn Odyssey today (6th); MSC Lirica and Rhapsody of the Seas tomorrow (7th); MSC Lirica, Splendour of the Seas and Star Pride Wednesday (8th); Celestyal Odyssey, Celestyal Olympia, Costa Deliziosa and Wind Star Thursday (9th);
- Rhodes: Star Pride today (6th); Wind Star tomorrow (7th); Celestyal Odyssey and Celestyal Olympia Wednesday (8th); and AIDAstella and Azamara Journey Thursday (9th);
- Cephalonia: Costa Mediterranea tomorrow (7th);
- Corfu: AIDAvita and Costa Deliziosa tomorrow (7th); Costa Mediterranean and Zenith Wednesday (8th);
(There are many more ports in the Greek islands than these, of course, but these are the main ones used by the largest cruise lines.)
It might be that there will be little impact in the major tourist areas in the islands, certainly not for passengers going ashore on their own – as long as they’ve got cash I anticipate that they’ll find that bars and restaurants will be very pleased to see them. I wouldn’t be so sure about going into central Athens from Piraeus, however. I’m also not so sure about excursions even in the islands, especially as time goes on – I have a feeling that one of the things that will vanish first (after money in the cashpoint machines) will be fuel, so it might be that taxis and mini-buses will stop running and this will affect excursions.
What no-one wants to happen is that the cruise lines start to cancel calls to Greek ports: the passengers because those ports include some unique and very beautiful places, and the Greeks because the passengers will be bringing in much needed cash. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the lines will find it tempting to start making cancellations, especially if stories about problems start circulating.
Like many others, I shall be watching the situation during the coming period with both interest and concern. We have an immediate family interest in this, in fact – some of our relatives are on a small Greek island in the Ionian sea after the breakdown of the boat they chartered last week, and are relying on a ferry to get themselves back to Cephalonia for their flight home later this week. Will the ferries be running after this weekend? – for example, will marine fuel still be available? Will planes still be landing at Greek airports? – for example, will the Greek airports still be able to supply jet fuel? Certainly our relatives have already found it very difficult to find cashpoints with actual cash in them, even before the referendum, and they’re saying that some suppliers, e.g. hotel proprietors, are asking for cash in advance.