Celebrity Cruises cancelled at short notice a scheduled visit to Bali’s port of Benoa on Monday by its cruise ship Celebrity Solstice (which can carry 2850 passengers) because of the risk of terrorist attack.
A letter of explanation distributed to passengers and signed by Captain Yannis Berdos mentioned travel warnings about potential terrorist attacks in Bali issued by the Australian and British governments. See: Terrorists ‘preparing attacks in Indonesia including Bali’
In addition, an itinerary update, circulated to crew and published by Miami-based maritime lawyer Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News, said:
Dear Fellow Crew Members:
After careful consideration, it is with heavy heart that we inform you that we will be bypassing Benoa, Bali on March 7, 2016. We understand that this is a great disappointment to our crew since many of you were looking forward to going ashore that day. Words cannot express how much we feel for you, especially for our fellow Indonesian crew members that were so looking forward to being home and visiting with their family and friends.
Due to a recent increasing credible security concerns pertaining to Indonesia, a decision has been made that Solstice will be bypassing Bali and proceeding earlier that scheduled to Darwin, Australia. This decision was made in an abundance of caution and for genuine care based upon security intelligence of potential terrorist attacks in the country that our company has been made aware of. It has been decided that this change in itinerary is in the best interest for the safety of all of our crew and guests.
Another notice circulated said “the most recent information received in the past few days indicates that the possibility of an incident has increased”. It also mentioned that the Balinese New Year falls today (9 March 2016), adding that recent past advisories had “named this date as one that could be targeted by terrorists”.
“Based on all of this information we have gathered from various sources, and in discussion with our Global Security team in Miami, we have made a decision to cancel our call to Bali.”
Balinese New Year’s Day would be an odd choice for terrorists. Known as Nyepi Day (Day of Silence), it is Bali’s quietest day of the year, with very few Balinese leaving home. The days leading up to Nyepi are exuberant, however, with colourful processions known as the Melati pilgrimages culminating in New Year’s Eve celebrations. Banks are closed for three days, starting on New Year’s Eve (yesterday).
A local newspaper in Bali questioned the timing of the ship’s port cancellation, writing: “questions have been raised by at least one passenger via postings on Facebook on the timing of the cancellation of the visit to Bali. The last warning from the Australian Government urging extreme caution for those traveling to Indonesia was issued on February 25th – a date well in advance of the Celebrity Solstice’s departure from Australia to Bali… Questions are being raised as to why the decision and announcement on Bali’s removal from the cruise itinerary not delivered to passengers prior sailing?”
Cruise Law News also pointed out that Travel Agent Central had mentioned that Celebrity’s sister cruise line Royal Caribbean, “which shares the same Global Security team”, is sailing the Radiance of the Seas to Bali later this month, and again in April.
Cruise tourism is increasing in Bali, with 58 cruise ships visiting in 2015. Cruise tourists typically stay for only a day or two, but they spend freely while in port.
Written by Peter Needham