Royal Caribbean officially announced today (Sunday) it has chosen Israel as the company’s permanent hub, establishing the port of Haifa as its home port. This is the first time ever that a major international cruise company has chosen Israel as a permanent base of operations. Not only does it mean that Israel will now join an exclusive list of countries from which Royal Caribbean operates routinely, but it will also have a significant economic impact on the country.
The gala press conference was held at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv, attended by Israel’s Minister of Tourism Yoel Razvozov; Senior Vice President at Royal Caribbean, Sean Treacy; Vice President EMEA at Royal Caribbean, Ben Bolden; and CEO of Sunorama, Royal Caribbean’s exclusive sales representative in Israel, Udi Schnabel.
The company reps officially revealed that Royal Caribbean would start operating from Haifa this August, throughout the summer and high holidays.
Minister of Tourism, Yoel Razvozov: “This year, more than 160,000 tourists will visit Israel through our seaports. Next year (2023), we expect more than 250,000 tourists. And now we can also add the momentum brought by Royal Caribbean. When a company of this magnitude chooses Haifa as a home port, it expresses Israel’s huge potential, and therefore, investing in maritime tourism is an important anchor in the plan that the Ministry of Tourism is drafting these days – a plan to bring in ten million tourists a year by 2030. It is also of economic importance to Israel and will create new jobs, which will help the tourism industry and the citizens of Israel in general.”
Ben Bolden, Vice President EMEA, Royal Caribbean Cruises, added: “Haifa is an amazing destination for sailing and will be a phenomenal homeport for all our international guests. Not only will we welcome guests aboard the Rhapsody in Israel in 2022, but this stunning ship will also return to sail from Haifa in September 2023, as part of our current plans to provide unforgettable vacations from Israel.”
Royal Caribbean cruises from Haifa will start August 5, 2022, with 28 cruises scheduled until October 31. Ports of call will include Cyprus (Limassol) and the Greek islands (Rhodes, Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini). The ship chosen to sail from Israel is Rhapsody of the Seas, accommodating about 2000 passengers and 765 crew members. The ship will arrive in Israel at the beginning of August to prepare for its first cruises, which will provide work for dozens of local suppliers. Royal Caribbean experts the cruises to attract not only Israeli tourists but also passengers from other countries in the region, which will help strengthen incoming tourism to Israel.
At the press conference, Royal Caribbean also revealed that kosher kitchens would be on offer aboard the ship for the first time. In addition, Royal Caribbean will also make sure the company’s app is supported in Hebrew, which will make it easier for passengers to locate activities and plan their time on the ship.
The sale of cruises from Haifa already began in December 2021, and so far, thousands of vacation packages have been sold. Prices start at $192 per person for a 2-night cruise and remain quite affordable even during August and the high holidays. A 6-night cruise in August, for example, starts at $448 per person for the entire cruise.
Prices include meals, entrance to the pool, and a variety of attractions aboard the ship but exclude restaurants that are not part of the dining room. In light of extremely high demands, Royal Caribbean announced they had opened sales for cruises from Haifa next year, in 2023.