Coming and Going: Pirates, Fleeing the Inauguration and Bargain Destinations

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Pirates of the Aden

With any luck, the Oceania Nautica and its 1,000 passengers and crew are today cruising the Arabian Sea without incident, two-thirds of the way through a 32-day sailing that must feel like a voyage across the world's front pages. First, the ship -- en route from Rome's port at Civitavecchia to Singapore -- was attacked by two skiffs of Somali pirates last Sunday as it passed through the treacherous Gulf of Aden, which borders Somalia and Yemen and links the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. "One of the skiffs did manage to close the range to approximately 300 yards and fired eight rifle shots in the direction of the vessel before trailing off," Oceania officials said in a statement. "No one aboard Nautica was harmed and no damage was sustained."

The next day the ship arrived in Salalah, Oman, where a local newspaper reported that few of the passengers (who reportedly included more than 300 Americans) were aware of the incident. The next day, however, a few passengers told the Associated Press that they had heard gunfire.

Then they were off again, this time to Dubai and then -- supposedly -- Mumbai, the ship's itinerary having been planned far in advance of the Nov. 26 terrorist attacks in that city. Given the continuing uncertainty of the Mumbai situation, Oceania Cruises canceled the Nautica's scheduled stop there; other cruise lines with plans to dock in the city (Royal Caribbean and Seabourn among them) also have shifted their itineraries, at least temporarily.

The Gulf of Aden is a crucial pathway for ships carrying petroleum, but it's also increasingly popular with cruise lines seeking to reposition ships between Europe and Asia. The Nautica, for instance, after winter cruises to ports in Sydney, Hong Kong and Beijing, will return to Europe in April. The trip will once more take the ship through the Gulf of Aden, by which time security may have improved. (Among the companies interested in providing security for ships in the gulf? Blackwater.) Until then, cruisers should closely monitor piracy in that region and elsewhere. (On Wednesday, yet another piracy attempt was reported by the crew of an Australian cruise ship, the MV Athena.) For updated information, visit the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre page at


Dept. of Get-Outta-Dodge

Enough talk of where to stay and what to do during January's inauguration festivities. For dyed-in-the-wool GOP types, not to mention the agoraphobic, reverse inauguration tourism is all the rage. But with seemingly every hotel within a day's drive of Washington booked solid, where's a bargain-hunting D.C. expat-to-be to go?

The answer, for once, is New York City, where CoGo recently found $149 rooms for inauguration night at the Radisson Lexington Hotel through Expedia (, a deal for NYC if ever there was one. (Rooms during the Christmas season are running about $225.) January has long been a favorite month for theater lovers, who like to take advantage of Broadway producers' annual scramble to fill seats during the tourist-unfriendly winter months. Just one bona fide deal worth considering: Disney on Broadway has a Kids Go Free sale: Buy a full-price adult ticket for shows between Jan. 6 and March 13, and one child younger than 18 gets in free. The offer applies to all Disney shows ("The Lion King," "Mary Poppins" and "The Little Mermaid"), but tickets must be purchased by Friday (866-870-2717,

And then there's always the city's Winter Restaurant Week (two actually, Jan. 18-23 and Jan. 25-30), when some of the city's finest eateries offer three-course prix-fixe meals at a fraction of their usual cost. (Reservation period begins Jan. 5; visit for details.)

Prefer something a bit warmer? American recently had flights to Miami for $176 round trip (all fees included) that leave on inauguration eve and return the following Sunday. South Beach properties such as the Hotel Shelley are averaging $110 a night for a five-night stay, again on Expedia, while the Newport Beachside resort in North Miami Beach is averaging about $139.


April (Not) in Paris

'Tis the season for surveys revealing the world's cheapest destinations, apparently. First out of the gate is the online ticket broker, which just released its list of bargain vacation spots for each month of 2009. The Web site's picks for January are Hong Kong (where hotel rooms rent for 59 percent of their peak-season rates, according to CheapTickets), Santa Barbara, Calif. (38 percent) and New York City (see above). Picks for the coming months include Italy in February, when travelers can take advantage of lower airfares to visit during Carnevale, and Portland, Maine, in March, when hotels are cheap and the maple syrup is at its freshest. For the rest of the survey, visit


Aer Lingus is holding an Ireland Winter Sale. The nonstop flight from Washington Dulles to Dublin costs $377 round trip, including taxes. Other airlines are charging at least $450 round trip for connecting service. Fares are valid for Monday-Thursday travel, Jan. 13-March 29 (some dates are sold out); weekend flights are an extra $15 each way. Blackout dates are Feb. 17-24 and March 5-26. Book by Dec. 10 at, or pay $32 more by calling 800-474-7424.

Reporting: Scott Vogel

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