Royal Caribbean International will launch the Odyssey of the Seas, its newest ship, from Israel in May on what the line is calling the first "fully vaccinated sailings," on which both crew and guests over the age of 16 will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The line's first cruises from Israel will visit Greece and Cyprus on three- to seven-day sailings from Haifa and will only be open to residents of Israel, which currently leads the world in vaccinations per capita, with more than half its population having received a Covid-19 vaccination. The U.S., by comparison, has vaccinated 15% of its population, according to the University of Oxford's Our World in Data project.
"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," Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "Royal Caribbean's decision to come to Israel is a significant expression of confidence in our policy. This is an important economic, touristic moment for the State of Israel. Israel is a global model of success."
Netanyahu said the cruises would be part of Israel's Green Passport program, which allows those who have been fully vaccinated access to registered gyms, theaters and concerts.
The itineraries, roundtrip from Haifa, will include visits to Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, Greece and Limassol, Cyprus. The cruises go on sale Tuesday, March 9.
The Odyssey is scheduled to be delivered in April and was originally set to launch this summer from Rome. Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean CEO, said in a statement that "sailing from Israel is an opportunity we have had our sights on for quite some time."
Royal Caribbean said that details on additional health and safety measures to be implemented by Israel and Royal Caribbean will be announced at a later date.
The fourth in Royal's Quantum class, the Odyssey of the Seas will feature SeaPlex the two-level, indoor and outdoor activity complex with its first Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade that features views of competition below; a reimagined Adventure Ocean kids program; and a "maxed-out" Social180 teen lounge with gaming consoles, music, movies and an outdoor, wraparound deck with ocean views.