Morgan Hines - USA TODAY / March 2, 2021
Royal Caribbean's newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, is set to debut in May with departures from Israel with all passengers and crew over age 16 vaccinated.
"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," the cruise line said in a statement posted to its website.
Israel has not yet opened vaccination appointments to residents 16 and under, according to the country's Ministry of Health.
Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Costa Cruises have all said they intend to vaccinate crew members on their vessels, but a fully vaccinated cruise is a newer commitment.
Originally supposed to sail in Rome before heading to Florida in November, the ship's launch in Israel marks the first time the cruise line will have sailings departing from the country, according to Royal Caribbean.
"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.
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The cruises, ranging from three-night to seven-night round-trip voyages visiting the Greek Isles and Cyprus, will be offered to Israelis only and will depart from Haifa.
"Sailing from Israel is an opportunity we have had our sights on for quite some time," Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International, said in a statement. "We greatly appreciate the government of Israel for their collaboration and confidence in us."
While some of the cruise destinations have taken shape, details on what proof of vaccination will look like for passengers are still being deliberated.
"We are still working with the local health authorities on what this will look like and will have more details shortly," Sierra-Caro said, noting that the cruise line is working with Israeli authorities on other details – including whether the type of vaccine received matters.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that he is proud Israel will be launching Odyssey of the Sea thanks to the country's purchase of "millions of vaccines."
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