Tourism suffers collateral damage from Middle East crisis

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The coronavirus-stricken tourism sector has suffered collateral damage from the escalation of Middle East violence, as Cruise operator Royal Caribbean cancelled a new line scheduled to run from Israel to Cyprus from next month.

The anticipated route would have been carried out by Royal Caribbean’s new ship Odyssey of the Seas and help to revive Cyprus’ once buzzing cruising industry after a lull of almost a decade.

Odyssey of the Seas planned voyages had brought delight to tourism stakeholders, as the trips would have attracted thousands of tourists spending money at the island’s hotels and restaurants before hopping on the cruise.

The cruise would have called on Limassol port, with tourists already on the ship stopping for an island tour.

Royal Caribbean was scheduled to dock at Limassol 15 times from June to August this year.

Odyssey of the Seas measures 347.1m long and 41.1m wide with a gross registered tonnage of 169,300t.

It can accommodate 4,284 passengers and 1,551 crew members.

The sailings out of Haifa port would have been the first for Royal Caribbean’s new ship and intended to exploit a travel corridor set up between Israel, Greece, and Cyprus for vaccinated travellers.

“Due to the unrest in Israel and region, Odyssey has not been able to complete the preparations required,” the company announced, in what appeared to be a reference to fighting over Gaza and tensions on Israel’s border with Lebanon.

According to the company, the ship will now spend its inaugural season in Florida, adding that it “remains hopeful to return to this popular destination (Israel) with its ships in the future”.

Cyprus may yet benefit, despite the line being cancelled, as people who have booked and paid for a cruise on the Odyssey will be offered a cruise on the Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas, which sails out of Limassol’s port.

The Jewel of the Seas is based in Limassol and will be running cruises to the Greek islands as of 10 July, with passengers opting to switch from the Odyssey, given a $400 voucher for services onboard.

Royal Caribbean International will operate new seven-night cruises to Greece and Cyprus on the super cruiser Jewel of the Seas starting 10 July.

Through October, voyages will depart from Limassol, visiting Athens and the Greek islands of Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos, and Santorini. Bookings open on 7 April.

Cruises are open to adult guests who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and those under 18 with negative test results.

The 90,090-gross-ton, 2,191-passenger Jewel of the Seas has pools, whirlpools, Vitality Spa and Fitness Centre, speciality bars and restaurants.

Spanning 13 decks, the ship also has a rock-climbing wall, casino, sports court, nine-hole miniature golf course, outdoor movie screen and more.