Royal Caribbean International is canceling its first-ever planned sailings from Haifa, Israel due to unrest, the cruise line announced Saturday.
The Odyssey of the Seas, the cruise line’s newest ship, had planned sailings from Haifa beginning June 2 and continuing through October. Instead of sailing from Israel, the ship will spend its inaugural season with sailings in Florida. Details of the future cruises have not yet been announced.
“Due to the unrest in Israel and the region, Odyssey has not been able to complete the preparations required to operate from Haifa as planned,” the cruise line said in a release provided by spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Caro.
The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian protests against attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes and Israeli police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.
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Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes. In Gaza, at least 139 people have been killed, including 39 children and 22 women; in Israel, eight people have been killed, including a man killed by a rocket that hit in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, on Saturday.
The latest outburst of violence spread across the region over the past week, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.
Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, said in the release that while the decision was challenging to make that the safety of passengers, crew and the communities the cruise line visits remains priority.
“This change, while understandably very disappointing for the Israeli holidaymakers who we looked forward to welcoming on board, reflects our strong commitment to offering holidays that are as safe as they are memorable,” Bayley said in a statement.
Details of the future cruises have not yet been announced.
In March, Royal Caribbean committed to “fully-vaccinated” for sailings on Odyssey of the Seas. That requirement may change with the location change.
The cruise line has said that 100% of crew will be required to be fully vaccinated, Sierra-Caro told USA TODAY. However, Royal Caribbean has not yet announced vaccine protocol for passengers sailing from the United States.
Contributing: Associated Press