In a case of taking lemons and making lemonade, Royal Caribbean has turned a humanitarian crisis — and a major disruption to its business — into a situation where it has helped potentially thousands.
We wrote previously about how the ongoing war in Israel meant the cancellation of some cruises and ports of call in Haifa.
This included Rhapsody of the Seas, which was homeported in Haifa, having cruises from the port canceled. In fact, after originally canceling the two upcoming cruises on the ship, Royal Caribbean later made the call to cancel all voyages until November when the ship was already planned to reposition.
At the same time, for many people in the region wanting to evacuate from the war, options were limited. A number of major airlines — including American Airlines and Delta — suspended flights from Israel.
So with a cruise ship with no passengers and people not able to leave the country, Royal Caribbean and the U.S. government seem to have worked together to solve the problem.
In a posting on the U.S. Embassy in Israel website, the government posted a notice (Security Alert #10) that references evacuating people via sea:
“The U.S. government is assisting U.S. nationals and their immediate family members with a valid travel document to depart Haifa via sea for Cyprus on October 16, 2023. Boarding begins at 0800 AM local time. U.S. citizens must arrive at Haifa port passenger terminal no later than 0900 AM local time. Boarding will proceed in order of arrival and is on a space limited basis.”
While there is no specific mention of Royal Caribbean or Rhapsody of the Seas, video on Good Morning America showed the ship boarding earlier today, and CruiseMapper.com shows Rhapsody currently en route from Haifa to Cyprus.
Meanwhile, the New York Post reports that 2,500 Americans stranded in Israel were allowed to evacuate via the ship. Rhapsody of the Seas has a maximum capacity of roughly 2,400 at full capacity.
From Cyprus, it is anticipated that the American passengers can then fly the rest of the way home. The Post also reports that chartered flights by the U.S. State Department will also be available from Israel this week. Still, this single cruise ship can carry roughly 10 times the number of passengers as a jet.
There is no word on if the Royal Caribbean vessel will return to evacuate more people who hope to depart Israel.