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Date: 05/04/2011

Passengers miss out as Cruise Ships avoid Pirate Alley

The word 'pirate' summons up rather comedic images of an eye-patched, one-eyed bandit with a parrot on his shoulder incessantly demanding pieces of eight. However, in reality, pirates are an efficiently-operated deadly band of seafarers, intent on extricating both goods and ransom money from any wealthy ships passing through. With the number of piracy incidents rising alarmingly many cruise travel insurance providers have been taking a closer look at where the problems are most commonly occurring.

Although there are a few global hotspots, the most dangerous and fastest-growing area for sea banditry is off Somalia's coastline. Although merchant ships are the most frequently targeted, especially as they are not licensed to be armed in any way, in January 2011 an attempt was made to highjack a cruise ship. With many of the passengers aged over 65 travel insurance claims should have been the last thing on their minds as they enjoyed a relaxing cruise in the gentle Indian Ocean. However, the cruisers found themselves all ushered to a safe room in the centre of the ship while the captain attempted to outwit and outrun the pirates.

The cruise ship, The Spirit of Adventure, managed to get away, a rare occurrence and with much credit due to the captain for his quick thinking. However, it is incidences such as this which are causing cruise operators to rethink their routes with some cruise travel insurance providers reluctant to provide cover for known piracy-dense routes. Indeed, when the Spirit of Adventure finally reached Mombasa, passengers were told that they were the first ship to have docked there in 12 months.

With such poverty along the Eastern Africa coast, the revenue that could be brought to these countries by cruise ships is being lost, but with insurance premium trebling for some cruises, making it an expensive trip for those needing over 65 travel insurance, operators have no choice but to abandon the area.