Royal Caribbean’s newest jewel, Odyssey of the Seas, includes Cyprus in its maiden voyage, docking in Limassol about 15 times from June to August, carrying only vaccinated Israeli passengers and crew.
It is part of an East Med itinerary before the cruise ship returns to its homeport in Fort Lauderdale.
The Odyssey is then scheduled to cross the Atlantic to begin its inaugural North American season in November, offering six- to eight-night itineraries to Caribbean destinations.
It is the first time a fully-vaccinated vessel will arrive in Cyprus as the island struggles to revive its tourism industry, with Israel its third-biggest market.
Only Israeli citizens will be accepted; all guests and crew above the age of 16 must be vaccinated to sail. Tickets will go on sale on March 9.
On Monday, Cyprus introduced a four-tier traffic light system for airline passengers from 56 countries allowed entry without quarantine, with restrictions in place throughout March.
All passengers from Israel, which together with the U.K. and Russia are in the ‘Grey’ category, must undergo a coronavirus test under 72 hours before their trip and have a certificate they tested negative for Covid-19.
Cyprus hopes to revise these regulations for arrivals in April and onwards to attract more tourists.
The Deputy Ministry for Tourism welcomed Royal Caribbean’s decision to incorporate Cyprus and the Greek islands among its destinations before returning to Haifa.
“The agreement constitutes a major success for cruise tourism in our country, which paves the way for further growth in a period when the sector took a huge blow due to the (Covid-19) pandemic,” the ministry said, noting the deal took six months to conclude.
It follows the agreement between the two governments whereby from April 1, visitors from Israel will be allowed entry without a negative PCR Covid test and no quarantine, provided they have received a vaccine.
“The ship’s passengers will be solely Israeli who will already have been vaccinated,” the Tourism Ministry said.
Before boarding the ship, passengers will present two negative Covid-19 tests, while they will be subject to additional controls along the voyage.
The Odyssey of the Seas is one of four Quantum-ultra class cruise ships commissioned by Royal Caribbean, with a 4,000-passenger capacity.
“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,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement posted to its website.
“The current situation throughout Europe is still uncertain, and Israel has been praised for their effective COVID-19 management by global experts and communities, and thus is well-placed to resume cruise operations,” Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean International, told USA Today.
The cruises range from three-night to seven-night round-trip voyages visiting the Greek Isles and Cyprus.
Last weekend, the Odyssey of the Seas completed its first sea trials in the North Sea out of its German shipyard Eemshaven, according to the maritime journal Seatrade.
“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,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Odyssey of the Seas will probably return in October 2022 for its “12 Night Holy Land Cruise” that will embark from Rome and include a same-day stopover in Limassol and stays in Haifa (Jerusalem), Rhodes, Santorini, and Chania.
Celestyal Cruises, the Cyprus-owned cruise company operating in the Greek islands and the eastern Mediterranean, is recommencing its cruise itineraries after the COVID-19 travel restrictions and port closures, first sailing for the 7-night’ Idyllic Aegean’ on April 24.
Celestyal is expected to resume cruises to Cyprus this year, with the 7-night ‘Three Continents’ itinerary onboard the Celestyal Experience that will include Athens, Port Said, Ashdod, Limassol, Rhodes, Kusadasi and Athens.
Meanwhile, seven cruise ships of the Carnival Group remain moored off the anchorage at Moni as part of the ‘hot lay up’ in less-costly Cyprus waters until the company decides to send them to their next itinerary or find new buyers.
These include the Island Princess, Enchanted Princess, Regal Princess and Sky Princess, the Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Ovation and Seabourn Encore.