The Seabourn Ovation, one of six Carnival Group cruise liners moored off Moni in a ‘hot lay-up’, will soon be departing for Greece from where the company will launch 7-day roundtrip sailings in July that includes Limassol port and a brief stopover in Paphos.
The cruises are being sold only to passengers fully inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine with at least 14 days between the two doses.
It is the second vote of confidence in Cyprus tourism after Royal Caribbean said its newest jewel, Odyssey of the Seas, will include the island in its maiden voyage, docking in Limassol about 15 times June to August, carrying only vaccinated Israeli passengers and crew.
Earlier, Cyprus-owned Celestyal Cruises had included Limassol as part of its ‘Three Continents’ itinerary, with 7-night voyages starting and ending in Greece.
However, this package has since been pushed back to November, and Celestyal is promoting Aegean-only cruises.
Hailing Seabourn’s inclusion of Cyprus in its summer programme, the junior ministry for shipping said, “this suggests that the epidemiological situation has been considered positively, together with maritime and tourism services that our country offers.”
The Ministry of Shipping said contributing to the Seabourn decision was the possibility of crew change, an issue which Cyprus has embraced from the moment the pandemic broke and received praise from the international maritime community, together with berthing and ‘hot lay-up’ services.
Currently moored off the anchorage at Moni, the Seabourn Ovation with its sister ship Seabourn Encore and four Princess cruise liners – the Island Princess, Enchanted Princess, Regal Princess and Sky Princess – have contributed some $120,000 a month to the Cyprus economy since last June.
A seventh Carnival ship, the Seabourn Sojourn, has left Cyprus and is headed to its Scandinavian and north European itineraries before returning to warmer waters.
A ‘hot lay-up’ is when cruise ships or idle cargo vessels are anchored in less-costly waters, such as Cyprus, until the company decides to send them to their next itinerary or find new buyers.
The Seabourn Ovation is classified as a ‘mega yacht’, carrying about 600 passengers and 330 crew.
She was christened by celebrity singer and musicals performer Elaine Paige in 2018.
Seabourn Cruise Lines struck a deal with the Greek government on April 6 to operate a 7-day sailings roundtrip from Athens this summer, beginning July 3.
The Ovation 7-day cruises are scheduled to open for booking on April 12.
Guests will also be able to book longer 14-day voyages, combining one of the two 7-day voyages with a variety of different ports on each.
On one itinerary, Seabourn will take guests to the ports of Agios Nikolaos (Crete), Rhodes, Mykonos, Nafplion and Limassol, while on the other, guests have the opportunity to experience Patmos, Rhodes, Thira and Spetsai along with a call at Paphos.
“The entire Seabourn family is truly excited to provide our award-winning travel experience aboard Seabourn Ovation starting again this July in the Greek Isles,” said Josh Leibowitz, president of Seabourn.
“Seabourn has been visiting Greece for more than 30 years, and we look forward to welcoming their ships back to our unique destinations this summer,” added Greece’s Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis.
The cruises are open to guests who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Proof of vaccination and the dates given will be required.
Seabourn said its passengers would be required to comply with all health protocols in place at the time of their departure.
Additional preventive health measures under Seabourn’s “Travel Safe” programme will also be in place, including health screening questionnaires, face mask requirements, physical distancing, and capacity controls for indoor venues and enhanced environmental sanitation, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades.
Royal Caribbean announced on March 2 that the Odyssey of the Seas package is part of an East Mediterranean itinerary before the cruise ship returns to its homeport in Fort Lauderdale.
The 4,000-passenger capacity Odyssey is then scheduled to cross the Atlantic to begin its North American season in November, offering six- to 8-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.
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.
It follows the agreement between the two governments whereby from April 1, visitors from Israel are allowed entry to Cyprus without a negative PCR Covid test and no quarantine, provided they have received a vaccine.
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 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.