Norwegian Cruise Line cancels Tunisia stops after country bars Israeli tourists

( The Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced Tuesday that it is canceling all of its remaining port calls to Tunisia and ceasing all future port calls there in response to the Tunisian government's refusal to allow a group of Israelis to disembark the Norwegian Jade ship in the Tunis-based port of La Goulette on Sunday.

Israeli passengers on board the Norwegian Jade cruise ship (pictured) were denied entry to Tunisia when attempting to disembark during a cruise stop. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

About a dozen Israelis were denied entry and singled out among hundreds of tourists. "[Cruise staff] were very elusive,” said Ed Glina, a Canadian tourist on the ship who witnessed the incident and stayed on board in solidarity with the Israelis.

"They said they got an email from the immigration department in Tunisia stating Israelis were not allowed to get off the ship. They were not given any reason why Israelis were not allowed off the ship—they indicated that in previous months when they had been to Tunisia, Israelis were allowed to get off—and that they didn't know why this was happening," Glina said, the Canadian National Post newspaper reported.

In a press statement released Tuesday, NCL expressed outrage over the incident.

"We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests," said Kevin Sheehan, NCL's CEO. "We are outraged by this act and the fact that we were not notified in advance of this practice. We apologize sincerely to our guests who were affected and want them to know that we have taken the appropriate action in response."

A Tunisian tourism ministry official said the Israeli visitors could not disembark because they did not have visas. The country's interior ministry added that the passengers were barred because they "did not meet the legal conditions for entering our country," AFP reported.

However, AnnMarie Mathews, vice president of public relations for Norwegian Cruise Lines told Tunisia Live Tuesday that “There was no visa requirement that we are aware of."

Roz Rothstein, CEO of the pro-Israel education group StandWithUs, praised the cruise line for "taking decisive action against discrimination, for their moral courage, and for sending the obvious message that all passengers should be treated equally, regardless of national origin." Similarly, Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham H. Foxman said NCL "sent a clear message to Tunisia and other governments that discriminatory practices against Israelis and other nationals will have a negative impact on tourism."

Posted on March 11, 2014 .