MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises have both confirmed to Cruise Arabia & Africa that their cruise ships MSC Splendida and Costa Fascinosa have departed the port of La Goulette in Tunis, Tunisia, following a deadly terror attack on a group of passengers from both ships Wednesday that left at least 17 people dead and 20 wounded.
Costa Fascinosa left port first on Thursday morning, with MSC Splendida following shortly afterwards. The two cruise ships had remained in port overnight amid a complete lockdown of both vessels as cruise line officials attempted to contact missing passengers and return them to the ships, both cruise lines said in separate statements.
According to a statement from Costa Cruises, the captain reported that 13 passengers had not returned to the ship. Costa Cruises and its care team are continuing to work with local authorities, and three additional care team members are expected to arrive in Tunis Thursday.
MSC Cruises said in a statement Thursday that six of its passengers remain missing, while the cruise line also confirmed that Executive Chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago, will arrive in Tunis Thursday morning to make a close assessment of the situation, and to provide assistance to the victims and their relatives as well as consult with local authorities.
MSC Cruises is in contact with the foreign ministries of approximately 50 countries whose nationalities are on-board the ship in an effort to receive and rely the latest information, the cruise line has also made on-board Internet and telephone services free of charge to enable passengers to contact home and reassure loved ones.
Cruise passengers from both cruise ships were on shore excursions to the Bardo National Museum in Tunisia when five gunmen stormed the museum and opened fire on the group of tourists. At the time of writing, Tunisian security forces had confirmed that two of the terrorist had been killed.
CBS has reported that the attackers waited for four tour buses to arrive at the museum before opening fire, while CNN has reported that gunmen entered the museum and took the group hostage before firing on them.
Costa Fascinosa had been sailing a seven-night Western Mediterranean itinerary that departed Genoa on March 15, MSC Splendida departed Barcelona on March 13 on a similar Western Mediterranean itinerary.
Tunisia was the epicentre of the national uprisings during the Arab Spring in 2011 that saw several authoritarian regimes in the Arab World overthrown. Tunisia, however, has until now appeared relatively safe for western tourists amid a surge of ISIS-led unrest across the Middle East and North Africa.
The country had its first democratic election in December and its tourism industry, one of the largest sources of employment in the country, seemed poised to make a dramatic comeback. At present, there are 565 cruises scheduled to visit Tunis during the rest of 2015, bringing an estimated 1.4-million tourists to the country.
While MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises have both told Cruise Arabia & Africa that itineraries visiting Tunisia are being reviewed, neither have confirmed that Tunisia will be dropped as a cruise destination. However, following Wednesday’s tragedy, it seems likely that there will be decreased interest from cruise passengers in visiting the country.