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Cruise lines pull ships out of Israel amid terror attacks and Hamas conflict

Royal Caribbean and Celestial Cruises have announced the cancellation of multiple voyages from or to Israel following the outbreak of armed conflict in the country over the weekend.

Royal Caribbean has cancelled two voyages departing from Haifa, Israel aboard Rhapsody of the Seas in the interest of passenger safety following the Saturday attacks on Israel by Hamas, and ensuing retaliatory strikes by Israel in Gaza.

Rhapsody of the Seas docked in Haifa on October 9th to disembark guests from a round trip cruise in the Greek Isles.

Rhapsody of the Seas has cancelled two upcoming cruises from Israel

However, as the security situation in Israel has intensified, the cruise line found it prudent to reassess its upcoming schedules.

Israel formally declared a state of war on Sunday as the death toll from an unprecedented Hamas attack a day earlier rose above 800, while The Palestinian Health Ministry said 788 people have been killed in Gaza since the outbreak of the conflict Saturday, and some 4,100 have been injured.

A company statement said the deteriorating geopolitical environment put guests in potential danger.

“We’ve been closely monitoring the geopolitical situation in Israel. With your safety and well-being in mind, and in conjunction with our Global Security Department, we’ve decided that we must cancel our October 9, 2023, and October 13, 2023 Rhapsody of the Seas sailings.”

Celestial Cruises followed suit, announcing on Tuesday that it is suspending all port calls in Israel until at least November. The decision impacts four cruises sailing the line’s Three Continents itinerary.

The Israel-based cruise line Mano Maritime also appears to have moved its only cruise ship, Crown Iris, from Haifa to Cyprus.

Other cruise lines pulling out of Israel include Holland America Line, which dropped Nieuw Statendam’s port call to Ashdod Monday, MSC Cruises port calls to Haifa aboard MSC Musica and MSC Sinfonia have been dropped through to November. Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas and Azamara have also cancelled port calls through October.

Decisions like these underscore the importance cruise lines place on the safety and comfort of their passengers, as well as their caution due to past security scares when operating near conflict zones.

In July, 2014, the German cruise line AIDA pulled out of Israel for two months during a resurgence in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. One of its ships was in port when it was struck by missile debris, prompting the cancellation of Israeli itineraries.

In 2021, Royal Caribbean had planned to homeport Odyssey of the Seas in Haifa for the summer, but had to cancel all Israeli itineraries when the local security situation deteriorated due to clashes between Israeli security forces and Hamas fighters.

For those affected by this latest decision, Royal Caribbean has confirmed that full refunds will be processed within 14 business days. This comprehensive refund will encompass not only the ticket prices but also any associated taxes and fees, pre-paid packages and gratuities, as well as any amenities or shore excursions that were previously booked.

Additionally, for those travelers who purchased flight tickets through Royal Caribbean’s platform, those costs will also be reimbursed.

Odyssey of the Seas

This move underscores the ever-changing dynamics of global travel. As the situation in Israel develops, the global tourism industry will be watching closely, hoping for stability and a swift return to safer travel conditions.

Cruise line’s decisions to pull out of Israel amid the deteriorating security situation comes as home-porting operations in Israel were beginning to recover following the renewed violence that flared with Hamas in 2021.

Several cruise lines had committed ships this season including Costa Cruises, Mano Maritime, MSC Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean International, Oceania Cruises, Seabourn and Windstar. 

Both Haifa and Ashdod were forecasting record seasons, with some 700,000 cruisers expected in Haifa this year, according to Seatrade Cruise News.

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