Middle East Cruise News

Odyssey of the Seas leaves shipyard, first Royal Caribbean ship to homeport in Israel

Royal Caribbean International’s 25th cruise ship has left the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Germany to begin her sea trials ahead of her deployment to the Middle East.

Odyssey of the Seas left the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Papenberg, Germany to begin her conveyance down the Ems River, a famous rite of passage for all new cruise ships built by the historic shipyard.

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The new Quantum Ultra class Odyssey of the Seas is one of the largest ships being delivered this year.

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When she is delivered, the massive new cruise ship will head to Israel, where she will homeport in Haifa, sailing Mediterranean cruise itineraries targeted at the domestic and regional Middle East cruise market.

For now, the ship still needs to complete sea trials and be handed over to the cruise line.

Royal Caribbean International said in a press release that it will offer Israelis a combination of three- to seven-night voyages visiting the Greek Isles including Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, Greece and Limassol, Cyprus, roundtrip from Haifa.

The new sailings will go on sale on March 9th this year, and while they’ll initially be open only to the domestic market, it is anticipated that international fly-cruise tourists will be able to book cruises as well once the international travel sector returns to normal.

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Haifa, Israel is the country’s primary cruise port.

Travel to Israel is currently heavily restricted, but the country plans to begin opening up to foreign visitors later this year. It is currently trialing a ‘green passport’ scheme that allows residents to book hotels, use gyms and spend time in malls if they have received the vaccine.

Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International, said he was “thrilled” to be introducing a homeporting Royal Caribbean ship in Israel for the first time.

“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,” he said.

“Sailing from Israel is an opportunity we have had our sights on for quite some time,” he added. “We greatly appreciate the government of Israel for their collaboration and confidence in us to deliver memorable cruise experiences to their residents.”

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The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, framed the move by Royal Caribbean as a direct results of the country’s leading vaccination program. Israel has vaccinated more of its residents than any other country in the world, closely followed by the UAE.

“This is an important economic, touristic moment for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Israel is a global model of success. We will continue our program – 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,” he added.

Royal Caribbean seemed to channel a similar sentiment in its press release, mentioning that Odyssey of the Seas will be the first cruise ship in the world to offer fully vaccinated sailings, where both crew and guests above the age of 16 will be vaccinated against COVID-19.

While Royal Caribbean has not committed to requiring vaccines from passengers globally, it has confirmed that it will vaccinate all shipboard crew and staff.

Israel and the UAE recently normalized relations, making Odyssey of the Seas more accessible to UAE citizens and residents when tourism resumes.

Royal Caribbean’s reference to Israel’s vaccination progress also suggests other countries with high vaccination rates, like the UAE, may benefit from increased cruise tourism in the near future as cruise lines look for cruising grounds perceived to be at less risk of COVID-19 outbreaks.

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