Royal Caribbean cancels Israel cruise season, putting pivotal hub on hold

May 16, 2021

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Royal Caribbean announced yesterday that, due to escalating tensions between Israel and Palestine, Odyssey of the Seas’ season sailing out of Israel had been canceled. This brand-new 4,198-passenger ship was slated to sail from Haifa from June through October with a fully vaccinated crew.

On its website, the line announced: “Odyssey of the Seas was to resume operations beginning June 2, 2021, out of Haifa, Israel. However, due to the unrest in Israel and the region, we have not been able to complete the preparation required to operate and as a result, sailings out of Haifa will be canceled.”

Sailing from Israel was big news when it was announced back in March. It marked the first time Royal Caribbean planned to sail from Haifa. The three- to seven-night cruises were limited to Israeli residents and featured calls on the Greek islands and Cyprus. Anyone 16 years or older needed to be vaccinated to board the ship.

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Odyssey of the Seas Haifa, Israel
Odyssey of the Seas gets a warm welcome as it arrives in Haifa, Israel, in April. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

CrewCenter reported on the season cancelation yesterday after receiving tips from several Odyssey crewmembers. According to them, the ship’s captain addressed the crew over the PA system and explained that the crisis between Israel and Palestine had become too volatile and the ship would redeploy elsewhere.

Indeed, the ship was in Limassol, Cypress, on Saturday to transfer approximately 50 crewmembers — who didn’t have U.S. visas — to sister ship Anthem of the Seas, which is slated to head to the U.K. next.

A crewmember told CrewCenter that “Odyssey will go to Port Canaveral very soon…” Royal Caribbean has not yet released details on potential sailings from this Florida homeport.

Cruisers are wondering if crew vaccinations were also a factor in canceling these voyages. CrewCenter reported that some of Odyssey’s crew were set to be vaccinated in Haifa on May 7 but that the appointments were canceled. Rumors today seem to indicate that some crew may have been vaccinated while in Limassol while everyone else that still requires immunization will get the vaccine when the ship returns to Florida.

Royal Caribbean is asking those who had booked reservations for the expedition and are looking for a refund to call customer service or check their email for more information.

Odyssey of the Seas, which TPG named one of the nine most anticipated new cruise ships of the year, isn’t new to the disappointment of cruise cancelations. The ship was previously scheduled to sail out of Civitavecchia, Italy (the port for Rome) in May on a series of Mediterranean voyages. Those itineraries were scrapped because of travel restrictions for U.S. travelers to European countries. The cruises out of Israel were an exciting replacement for those who were eligible to sail.

Featured image of Odyssey of the Seas arriving at its homeport of Haifa, Israel, for the first time in April 2021, courtesy of Royal Caribbean

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