Guests aboard Odyssey of the Seas‘ May 6, 2023 sailing are not enjoying the cruise they’d originally planned, due to local unrest that has caused significant changes to the scheduled itinerary.
Rather than visiting rare and highly coveted ports of call in Israel, the ship has diverted to ports of call in Greece.
Odyssey of the Seas Itinerary Changes
Royal Caribbean International’s Odyssey of the Seas is currently sailing what was to have been a 12-night “Holy Land” cruise itinerary with ports of call for both Jerusalem/Bethlehem as well as Tel Aviva/Nazareth in Israel.
Both of those ports of call have been cancelled, however, with substitute ports in Greece added to the ship’s itinerary. Guests onboard have been notified of the changes via announcements by the ship’s captain as well as letters delivered to their staterooms.
“Despite our best efforts to preserve our Holy Land experience, the geopolitical situation is escalating,” the letter explained. “As a result, we’ve suspended immigration processes in Haifa.”
The letter goes on to detail the revisions to the remainder of the ship’s itinerary until it arrives in Rome (Civitavecchia) on Thursday, May 18.
Initially, the ship was to have spent an overnight call for Jerusalem/Bethlehem (port of Ashdod) from Wednesday, May 10 until the evening of Thursday, May 11.
Escalating unrest in Gaza, just 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of the port of Ashdod, led the ship to plan instead for extra time in Haifa, a further 70 miles (113 kilometers) north along Israel’s western coast.
Shortly after arriving at Haifa and commencing immigration processing, however, guests onboard reported several announcements that highlighted safety concerns in the region and it was decided not to remain in Israel. Instead, arrangements were made for port visits in Greece.
Now, the Quantum-Ultra-class ship will spend a day at sea on Thursday en route to Greece, and will spend Friday in Santorini from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Saturday, the ship will visit Crete from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The remaining ports of call on the itinerary – Ephesus, Athens, and Naples – are unchanged, as is the ship’s arrival in Rome on May 18 for debarkation.
“We sincerely apologize for any disappointment this may cause,” the letter concluded. “Thank you for your understanding, we hope you enjoy the remainder of your time with us onboard Odyssey of the Seas.”
All pre-paid shore tours for the now-cancelled ports of call are being automatically refunded to guests as onboard credit. Furthermore, Royal Caribbean is offering additional onboard credit for guests to use during the rest of the cruise.
The amount of credit offered is based on stateroom type, with $250 (USD) given to interior and ocean view cabins, $300 for balcony cabins, and $500 for suites. The total is per stateroom, but an extra $50 will be added for each third, fourth, or additional guest in each cabin.
Credits can be used for spa services, drinks, specialty dining, add-on attractions, photos, souvenir purchases, and other onboard expenses. Any refundable credits remaining at the end of the cruise will be reimbursed to guests’ cards on file for their SeaPass accounts.
Safety Is Always the First Priority
Many guests onboard will be understandably disappointed at the drastic itinerary change, but the decision has been made with guests’ safety in mind, as the letter states: “As always, your safety and comfort remain our highest priorities.”
All cruise lines have the right to alter itineraries for any reason, including due to local or regional unrest, rising crime rates, or violence that may threaten passengers, crew members, or port officials.
While cruise ticket contract terms and conditions may vary depending on a guest’s primary country of residence, for travelers from the US, section 7a clearly states that Royal Caribbean:
“May for any reason at any time and without prior notice, cancel, advance, postpone or deviate from any scheduled sailing, port of call, destination, lodging or any activity on or off the Vessel, or substitute another vessel or port of call, destination, lodging or activity.”
This is not the first time that a cruise line has altered a sailing due to geopolitical unrest. Protests, coups, and other events have also impacted cruise ships at ports of call around the world, including in Haiti, Russia, Ensenada, Tunisia, and other destinations.
Despite the drastic alterations for Odyssey of the Seas, Santorini and Crete are both fabulous destinations, and the cruise line is working to put together shore tour options before reaching the ports. Hopefully, guests onboard will continue to make amazing memories of their Mediterranean cruise getaway.