Royal Caribbean International crew members will be vaccinated in Israel prior to the launch of “Green Island” fully-vaccinated cruises departing from Haifa beginning May 30, according to local media reports.
The financial website TheMarker [Hebrew] said that the crew of Royal Caribbean’s new flagship, Odyssey of the Seas, which will carry Israelis only, will be vaccinated in Israel so that local authorities will be able to confirm the veracity of their vaccination certificates.
Royal Caribbean to sail 3-7 night cruises from Israel
With North American cruises still grounded, Royal Caribbean will offer vaccinated Israelis the chance to take 3-7 night cruises to the Greek Isles and Cyprus, with itineraries departing roundtrip from Haifa, Israel, to destinations in the Mediterranean, including Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, Greece and Limassol, Cyprus. Israel recently signed tourism agreements with Greece and Cyprus allowing vaccinated persons to travel between the countries without quarantine.
“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 first ‘Green Island’ at sea,” Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International said when the voyage was announced in March.
Meanwhile, according to TheMarker, international cruise operators are lining up to receive authorization to dock in Israel as they seek to tap in to high demand for travel products following the world’s most successful vaccine roll-out. Over half of all Israelis are now fully inoculated and the Covid-19 case rate has plummeted.
Israel reopens to foreign tourists
Israel’s Ministry of Tourism announced this week that after a year in which it has been closed to tourism the country will open its borders to international travelers starting 23 May, on condition that they are fully vaccinated and that they have a negative PCR test before flying to Israel and a serological test upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. At the first stage only travellers in groups will be allowed into the country, with individual travelers having to wait for a later stage. No specific guidelines have been issued for cruise travellers.
Celebrity Apex and Silver Moon to call at Haifa
Silversea Cruises, Seabourn and Celebrity Cruises have all announced itineraries that will take in Israel, and according to The Marker, both companies have approached Israel’s Ministry of Tourism for authorization to dock in Haifa.
Celebrity is planning to operate 7-night cruises out of Athens that would stop in Haifa beginning in June aboard the Celebrity Apex, its billion-dollar Edge Series ship that had been due to launch in April 2020. The report in TheMarker said that Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo had written to Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, notifying her that all passengers and crew would be fully vaccinated, and requesting authorization to dock in Haifa.
Silversea will be offering 10-day fully vaccinated Eastern Mediterranean cruises beginning June 18 aboard the Silver Moon departing from Greece and calling at Santorini, Paros, Mykonos and Crete, as well as Haifa and Cyprus.
TheMarker quoted from what it said was a letter from Silversea to the Tourism Ministry in which it guaranteed that all crew and passengers would be fully vaccinated. “Only 490 passengers will be able to board the ship, 75% of maximum capacity, and tourists will not be able to travel independently in Israel, only together with organized tours that will visit Jerusalem and Nazareth.”
Cruise line health and safety protocols yet to be approved by Israel
While the cruise companies have already announced itineraries that call at Haifa, previous reports in Israeli media have noted that as yet there are no official safety protocols for cruise travel.
Last week a report on Israel’s Channel 12 TV [Hebrew] claimed that health ministry officials have warned passengers not to buy tickets for cruises departing from Israel.
According to the report, the unnamed officials warned that cruises still presented a danger of Covid-19 infection and said that no protocols have been established for the departure of cruises from Israel.
Tickets have already been on sale for over a month with lively demand reported.
A separate report in the Israel Hayom daily also warned that the Health Ministry has yet to approve Royal Caribbean’s health and safety protocols for cruises departing from Israel.
While according to the reports, the officials said no authorization had been given to Royal Caribbean to sail from Israel at present, they did say such authorization may be forthcoming.
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