Royal Caribbean Cruises has named Haifa as a homeport for the 2022 summer season. The global cruise giant has announced that the Rhapsody of the Seas will be based in Haifa and operate 28 cruises to Cyprus and the Greek Islands between August and October - ranging from two-night voyages to eight-night voyages. The Rhapsody of the Seas, which will anchor in Israel in August, can take up to 2,000 vacationers with a crew of 765.
Royal Caribbean, which operates out of 33 ports including Barcelona, Miami and Sydney, has also scheduled cruises from Haifa for the summer of 2023.
Royal Caribbean had scheduled cruises from Haifa last summer on the Odyssey of the Seas, which even anchored in Hiaifa, but canceled them in May after disagreements with the Ministry of Health about Covid-related protocols and the outbreak of the conflict in Gaza. Cancellation of the cruises cost Royal Caribbean tens of millions of dollars in refunds to thousands of Israelis who had booked cruises.
At a press conference in Israel attended by Minister of Tourism Yoel Razvozov, senior Royal Caribbean executives SVP sales Sean Treacy and VP EMEA Ben Bouldin spoke optimistically about the tourist potential of cruises from Haifa for both Israelis and people coming to Israel to take the cruises.
Razvozov said, "This year over 160,000 tourists will come to Israel through the seaports. Next year more than 250,000 will come. Tourism from the sea is an important anchor in the Ministry of Tourism's plan, which we are currently preparing, to bring 10 million tourists to Israel annually by 2030."
Royal Caribbean's 28 Israel cruises will begin on August 5 and end October 30. The cruises will call in at Limassol (Cyprus) and Rhodes, Athens, Mykonos and Santorini in Greece.
The cruises have been adapted to the Israeli market and will include kosher food, glatt kosher food, menus in Hebrew and Shabbat elevators. Unvaccinated passengers will be allowed with PCR tests taken before boarding and at the end of the cruise.
Cruise prices start from $192 for two nights, with six night cruises starting from $450, prices can be higher according to demand and the date.
Bouldin said, "Our product is international but we recognize the needs of Israeli passengers. Israelis come back every year and love a cruise vacation. We looked seriously at the Israeli market last year and understood that there is potential here. This is what motivated us when we launched pour plans through to 2024, to continue operating cruises from Haifa."
He added, "The potential does not stop with Israeli tourists. We can bring tourists from the US, Brazil and Mexico. Cruise fans will want to visit Israel and spend several days on our cruise. In the next stage we will consider combining more distant destinations beyond the Greek Islands for longer cruises from Haifa."
Royal Caribbean is not the only cruise line sailing from Haifa. MSC will also operate cruises from Haifa to Cyprus and the Greek Islands.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 14, 2022.
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