Royal Caribbean Bases Ship in Israel as it Looks to Cruising Restart

cruises from Israel to restart
Odyssey of the Seas under construction at Meyer Werft (Royal Caribbean International)

Published Mar 1, 2021 4:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

After hinting to investors last week that it might restart additional cruise service outside the United States, Royal Caribbean International today announced plans to homeport a cruise ship in Israel offering what the company is calling the first fully vaccinated cruises. Indications are that the company is pursuing several strategies to restart cruises internationally.

During the investor call, management expressed optimism that the global situation was progressing in the right direction. They said they were in contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hopeful there would be progress with the U.S. cruise market soon. However, the line is also moving forward using its experience from its first cruises sailing from Singapore since December to launch new cruise programs.

Using the line’s newest cruise ship, the 169,000 gross ton Odyssey of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International will launch its first-ever cruise program from a homeport in Haifa. The cruises which will offer 3- to 7-night trips will round trip from Israel with calls in Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos, and Athens, Greece and Limassol, Cyprus. These cruises replace a previously announced program that was to have operated from Italy.

Residents of Israel will be the first guests to cruise on the Odyssey of the Seas during its inaugural season. In conjunction with Israel's health and tourism authorities, Royal Caribbean will be the first to offer fully vaccinated sailings, where both crew and guests above the age of 16 will be vaccinated against COVID-19. Details on the additional health and safety measures to be implemented by Israel and Royal Caribbean will be announced at a later date.

"We are thrilled to debut Royal Caribbean cruises from Israel with our newest and most innovative ship, Odyssey of the Seas. Israeli travelers will be looking to get away, relax with total peace of mind, and enjoy the travel experiences they are missing dearly," said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. "We greatly appreciate the government of Israel for their collaboration and confidence in us to deliver memorable cruise experiences to their residents." 

The tourism ministries of Greece and Cyprus also immediately hailed the news of the cruise as a step toward restoring their vital tourism industries. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying, "Thanks to the millions of vaccines we have brought, I am proud that Israel will be the first country in the world to launch Royal Caribbean's new flagship. Royal Caribbean's decision to come to Israel is a significant expression of confidence in our policy. This is an important economic, touristic moment for the State of Israel.”

Reports have also appeared in the Mexican media suggesting that Royal Caribbean might base one of its cruise ships at a new pier the Mexican government is building at Cozumel. After years of delay and opposition from the hotel industry, the pier is reportedly ready to enter service in May. The new pier can handle cruise ships up to nearly 1,200 feet in length.

Royal Caribbean told investors that they had learned from their international cruise efforts, having carried nearly 35,000 Singapore residents on the Quantum of the Seas, which is a sister ship to the new Odyssey of the Seas. The CDC’s restrictions on cruises only pertain to the U.S. ports so the international experience might provide an opportunity to resume more cruise operations while the line waits for the U.S. to permit the local cruise market to re-open.