Royal Caribbean International has cancelled two ports of call in Israel for Odyssey of the Seas‘ current sailing due to the escalating geopolitical situation in the region. Two new ports of call have been substituted and the remainder of the ship’s itinerary is unaffected by the sudden change.

The Quantum-Ultra-class Odyssey of the Seas will not be visiting either Haifa or Ashdod in Israel as planned on the current 13-night Holy Land cruise. Guests onboard received the news and an updated itinerary in their staterooms, with suggestions for top sites at the new ports of call and what will happen to pre-booked shore tours.

“As shared by our Captain, the geopolitical situation in Israel is escalating. We take the matter very seriously and our Global Security Teams are closely monitoring developments,” the letter read. “With the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew in mind, we’ve decided to cancel our calls to Israel.”

Instead, the ship will now visit Bodrum, Turkey and Limassol, Cyprus. Each of the port visits will be a generous 13-hour stay from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., giving guests plenty of time to explore and enjoy these new destinations.

Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean

Odyssey of the Seas is halfway through the 13-night cruise, having departed from Rome, Italy on Monday, October 2, 2023. The ship has already enjoyed visits to Naples, Italy; Athens, Greece; Ephesus, Turkey; and Mykonos, Greece. The ship will next visit Santorini, Greece as originally planned on Sunday, October 8.

Several days of the sailing must be adjusted, however. Monday was to have been a day at sea en route to Haifa (Tuesday) and Ashdod (Wednesday). Instead, Odyssey of the Seas will now spend Monday in Bodrum, Turkey; Tuesday will be a day at sea; and Wednesday will be the visit to Limassol, Cyprus.

The remainder of the sailing – a day at sea, a final port of call in Crete, and another day at sea before returning to Rome on Sunday, October 15 – is unchanged.

The 167,704-gross-ton Odyssey of the Seas can welcome 4,198 guests at double occupancy, or up to 5,510 passengers when fully booked with all berths filled.

After the current sailing, the ship has one more Holy Land itinerary before a 15-night transatlantic cruise will bring her to Fort Lauderdale to offer Caribbean sailings for the winter months. In April 2024, Odyssey of the Seas will return to the Mediterranean.

All pre-paid shore tours booked through Royal Caribbean International for either Haifa or Ashdod are being automatically refunded to guests’ onboard accounts, and any remaining credit at the end of the sailing will be returned to the card on file within 14 business days of debarkation.

Guests with independent tour arrangements will need to contact their individual tour operators for options. Depending on individual policies, travel insurance may also help recoup costs from private tours now that the port visits are cancelled.

Bodrum, Turkey (Photo Credit: Esin Deniz / Shutterstock)

Tour options are being made available for both Bodrum and Limassol. In both destinations, guests can visit amazing historical and cultural sites and enjoy unique experiences showcasing the unique vibrancy of each port. Touring Bodrum Castle, indulging in an authentic Turkish bath, and exploring Crusader strongholds are just a few options.

Odyssey of the Seas is not the only cruise to be altered en route to Israel. Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Apex has also cancelled port visits to Israel in the next few days, substituting ports in Cyprus and Egypt instead.

Furthermore, other cruise lines with upcoming calls in Israel – including Norwegian Cruise Line, TUI Cruises, MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, and more – are also likely to alter itineraries due to safety concerns.

Cruise lines always keep alert to tense situations and the possibility of violent escalations in different parts of the world, and alter itineraries as necessary to better protect the safety of their guests, crew members, and ships.

Similar schedule changes happened when tensions escalated between Russia and Ukraine in February 2022 as cruise lines cancelled port visits to Odessa, St. Petersburg, and other impacted destinations and substituted ports of call further from potentially dangerous regions.

The situation will undoubtedly be disappointing to thousands of cruisers who may have booked sailings deliberately to enjoy the port visits in Israel, but safety is always the foremost concern.

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