Royal Caribbean International will begin sailing from Israel for the first time in May, thanks to the country’s advanced vaccination programme.
The cruise line will offer vaccinated Israelis the chance to sail the Greek isles and Cyprus on its newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas.
The $1 billion ship had initially been scheduled to sail from Southampton to Belgium and Holland from April 2. It was due to reposition to Barcelona on April 5, then a series of cruises had been planned from Rome to the Greek islands and Italy.
The original inaugural season has been cancelled and the first sailings will now be from Haifa for Israeli residents, starting on March 9.
The cruise line said: “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.”
The new sailings feature round-trips from Haifa, to destinations including Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, Greece and Limassol in Cyprus.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “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.
“We will continue our programme – the ‘green passport’ – so that we can get out of the Covid-19 virus in peace. Just as we made Israel the world champion in vaccines, we will make it the world champion in economics and tourism in the post-corona era.”
Greece’s tourism minister, Haris Theoharis, added: “Our recent travel agreement with Israel is already bringing results, and more people will have the opportunity to have unique experiences in our beautiful destinations and islands.”
Savvas Perdios, deputy minister of tourism for Cyprus, commented: “Cyprus supports the cruise industry and is pleased to help the industry on its road to recovery.”
Michael Bayley, president and chief executive of Royal Caribbean International, said: “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.”
The 4,180-passenger capacity vessel will be the second Quantum Ultra Class ship and the first of its kind to homeport in the region.
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