Reaping the benefits of an early and extensive national vaccination program, Israel is set to play host to Royal Caribbean’s newest ship beginning in May.
The world’s second-largest cruise line will offer Israelis a combination of three to seven-night getaways visiting the Greek Isles and Cyprus on board the freshly built Odyssey of the Seas.
As of February 23, Israel had delivered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 70 percent of its adult population, leading the world. The results are providing a shot of optimism for other nations as well: a study of 600,000 Israelis who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine found a 94 percent drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections.
Odyssey of the Seas will offer fully vaccinated sailings, where both crew and guests above the age of 16 will be required to have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Details on additional health and safety measures — including things like capacity restrictions, face-coverings, and social distancing — will be announced at a later date.
The itineraries, roundtrip from Haifa, will include visits to eastern Mediterranean destinations including Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos, and Athens, Greece and Limassol, Cyprus. The sailings will go on sale March 9th.
“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; and that is what we do best,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touted his country’s vaccination program as “a global model of success” that will enable it to become one of the first nations to restart cruising from its shores.
“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,” Netanyahu said.
Royal Caribbean’s second Quantum Ultra-Class ship, Odyssey of the Seas, was originally scheduled to debut with a series of cruises from Rome in November 2020. Shipyard delays due to COVID pushed back the launch date to April 2021.
The 168,800 gross ton ship will carry 4,180 guests at full capacity. Onboard highlights include:
- A two-level, resort-style pool deck featuring two pools, hot tubs, shady casitas and hammocks, and the two-story Lime and Coconut bar.
- SeaPlex, a dual-level indoor and outdoor activity complex featuring bumper cars, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, the FlowRider surfing simulator, SkyPad bungee trampoline, and the RipCord by iFly skydiving simulator.
- A diverse lineup of dining options with cuisine from around the world, with multiple choices for both included and added-cost specialty dining. Many bars and lounges are featured, including the Bionic Bar where drinks will be served by robotic bartenders.
- Entertainment venues throughout the ship, led by signature productions in the Royal Theater and Two70 — where art and multimedia merge.
News of the Israel-based program follows recent remarks by Royal Caribbean Group that its second ship to resume sailing would likely operate outside the U.S. Quantum of the Seas restarted from Singapore last December with a series of short “cruises to nowhere” offered exclusively to Singaporeans. These have been a success and were recently extended.
Royal Caribbean International’s President Bayley says Israel’s vaccination success accelerated an existing desire by the company to base a ship there.
“Sailing from Israel is an opportunity we have had our sights on for quite some time. We greatly appreciate the government of Israel for their collaboration and confidence in us to deliver memorable cruise experiences to their residents, and look forward to delivering on that promise aboard our newest ship.”