Royal Caribbean just welcomed the Odyssey of the Seas, a new cruise ship that will begin “fully vaccinated” cruises from Israel this summer.
This announcement comes after a year of bad news for cruise lines, including COVID-19 outbreaks at the beginning of the pandemic, an industry-wide pause throughout 2020 …
… tumultuous responses to “fully vaccinated” sailings, and the CDC’s rejection of an earlier cruising return.
The ship’s inaugural sailing was once set for May to October from Italy, but both the dates and location were changed to June to October from Israel.
And unlike the previously canceled cruises aboard this new ship, these new Israel sailings will only be available to Israeli residents who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Guests under 18-years-old who don’t have the vaccine will instead have to test negative for the virus.
This cruise series will then bring its Israeli guests on three to seven-night trips around the Mediterranean.
Wondering what you’ll do for seven nights aboard a ship?
The 1,138-foot long, 135-foot wide cruise will offer several amenities that will keep its guests and their children busy.
This includes a “Caribbean-inspired” pool deck with two pools and four whirlpools.
But if you or your children are looking for more active fun, head to the Splashaway Bay water park or the “SeaPlex” activity center.
The latter will be the “largest indoor active space at sea,” according to Royal Caribbean, and will include unique activities like bumper cars, virtual reality games, and laser tag.
If you need a break from the kids, head to the Solarium. Here, guests over 16-years-old can hang out at the pools, relaxation areas, and a bar. The image below shows the Solarium on a different Royal Caribbean ship.
While the parents are relaxing, their children can partake in the Adventure Ocean program full of different games and activities.
Meanwhile, the teenagers can instead head to the Social180 to game, lounge, and mingle.
But if the whole family is looking for some more adventurous activities, head up to the top deck for the ship’s observation area …
… virtual reality-powered SkyPad bungee trampoline, and both a skydiving and surfing simulator.
When it’s mealtime, guests can dine at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar or Teppanyaki, both Royal Caribbean firsts for North America.
More interested in indoor entertainment? Go down to the Two70, which will showcase different performers and rotating TV screens to turn a lounge into an immersive theater.
If you aren’t based in Israel but trips aboard the Odyssey of the Seas sound enticing, wait until November when the ship will head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Several cruise lines around the world have already announced COVID-19 vaccine requirements ahead of the return of cruising. Now, US-based Windstar Cruises will be joining this list with its recent decision to require both guests and crew to be vaccinated.
Like several other cruise lines, Windstar – which currently operates six ships that each carry less than 350 guests – is currently set to resume sailing in June. But if you’re an eager Windstar cruiser anticipating this big return, you better be vaccinated.
The small cruise line will require its guests to both test negative for the virus and show proof of the vaccination, which must be received at least 14 days before sailing. Crew members will also have to be vaccinated “as soon as the vaccine is available to them,” according to Windstar.
This decision to implement a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate was made in response to increased vaccine access in the US, and “in the best health and wellness interests of its guests, crew, and the places the yachts visit,” according to Windstar.
“Vaccination is another layer of safety for all of us, and it’s the responsible course of action as our yachts resume cruising and our guests travel the world,” Christopher Prelog, Windstar Cruises’ president, said in a statement.
In the US, cruise trips and music festivals have been nowhere to be seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, one company, Sixthman, is looking to bring both back by November in the form of a rock music festival aboard a Norwegian cruise ship.
Sixthman specializes in “festivals at sea.” This includes the Rock Boat, an annual themed “floating music festival.” In years past, artists like Brandi Carlile, the Plain White T’s, and the Zac Brown Band have graced the cruise’s stage. This year, the festival’s 21st trip – which will sail with a “classic video game” theme – will include artists like Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Switchfoot, and American Authors.
The idea of attending a music festival aboard a crowded cruise ship may still seem difficult for some people to digest. However, not everyone’s been feeling this hesitancy: the Rock Boat XXI, set for early November, is already sold out.
Prices for the November 7 to 12 cruise range between $695 to $9,451 per person depending on the room’s size and the number of occupants.
Like any normal cruise, the Rock Boat will bring its passengers from Miami to locations in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. Sixthman also has the benefit of being a subsidiary of Norwegian. This means the festival gets to sail on the cruise line’s Norwegian Jewel ship, which is full of classic cruising amenities like a spa, swimming pools, a casino, and bars, all accessible to its festival-going passengers.
According to Diaz, Norwegian provides Sixthman with the support needed to turn a cruise ship into a music festival venue.
“This ship will sail with maybe 2,200 or 2,300 rock boater, but there’s another 1,000 Norwegian crew members that are there to serve the guests, and they embrace these concepts with us,” Anthony Diaz, CEO of Sixthman, told Insider in an interview.
Operating under Norwegian also means the five-day music festival will have to follow the cruise line’s COVID-19 safety protocols. Right now, this means health screenings, improved air filtration and sanitation, and “responsible social distancing.” But by November, these protocols could look different.
“We won’t jeopardize the experience,” Diaz said. “We will adhere to the protocols in place when it’s time to sail, and … if those inhibit the experience we feel is best for not just Rock Boaters, but all Sixthman events, then we’ll make decisions based on that.”
Rock Boaters are eager to cruise again
In the past few months, pent-up demand for travel has led cruise lines to see record-setting bookings days and sold-out cruises. This year’s Rock Boat falls right in line with this pattern of cruising popularity: the trip officially sold out on March 3 after pre-sales launched in February 2020, and public sales began late August.
In years past, the festival has sold out through pre-sales alone. But in 2020, the company had to face an obvious disruptor.
“We were probably on trend to sell out just as quickly this year, so had the pandemic not happened, it probably would’ve been another quick sellout,” Jen Wedick, creative manager of Sixthman told Insider in an interview.
Much of this popularity stems from its loyal customers, which typically range between 35 to 60 years old. About 80% of passengers on this upcoming cruise have previously attended a Rock Boat festival.
“This Rock Boat community has been together for 20 years, so they’re just as interested in going to see each other,” Wedick said. “When we’re on land from year-to-year, they’re together every weekend at shows and their little regional pockets. So the fact they haven’t had that for a year, they want to all see each other as much as the event itself.”
It’s not just guests: artists also look forward to the cruise
The festival normally sails in January but was inevitably pushed back to November due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, when conversations around rescheduling first began, there was “zero hesitation [from artists] about postponing because they’ve come to appreciate the value of these types of events,” Diaz said.
Like the cruise’s guests, Rock Boat’s artist retention rate is high. According to Wedick, this is because the festival allows artists and fans to connect with each other in a way that can’t be done with “concerts at home.”
“[Guests] really get immersed in the world of the artist,” Diaz said. “The artist forms tighter bonds with the guests, the guests form incredibly tight bonds with each other, and then even the other artists are in bonds with the other artists,”
Sixthman’s events have generally been selling “well”
Sixthman’s niche of “festivals at sea” spans past the Rock Boat’s rocking theme. The company’s 2021 sailings currently cross a wide variety of industries, from “Chris Jericho’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Rager at Sea: Triple Whammy” wrestling cruise, to the “Kiss Kruise X” featuring Kiss, to a Broadway cruise.
The obvious common denominator between all of these events is the cruising aspect. As a result, its business was obviously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately halted cruises around the world.
“In the midst of the worst part of the pandemic in May, June, and July of last year, we moved events forward, put them back on sale, let people get refunds should they choose, and then sold most of them out again,” Diaz said. “Then we realized, ‘okay, we have a business, it’s just going to take a year off.'”
So far, this initial realization has been correct. Like the Rock Boat, bookings for the company’s events are currently strong, with sailings either selling out or selling “well,” Diaz said.
“We’re really ready and craving to get back out there, whatever ‘out there’ means,” Diaz said. “Our guests want to get back out together at sea on vacation.”
Are you a cruise industry employee or have a cruise industry story to share? Contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, Royal Caribbean is enforcing this same protocol on its newly announced summer sailings collection: all adult passengers must be vaccinated against COVID-19, while guests under 18-years-old must test negative for the virus.
“The vaccines are clearly a game changer for all of us, and with the number of vaccinations and their impact growing rapidly, we believe starting with cruises for vaccinated adult guests and crew is the right choice,” Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, said in the press release. “As we move forward, we expect this requirement and other measures will inevitably evolve over time.”
This new series of ‘fully vaccinated’ trips will sail on the Adventure of the Seas ship beginning June 12 from the cruise line’s new homeport in Nassau, Bahamas. The cruise will then hit islands like the Grand Bahama, Cozumel, Mexico, and Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay island. The latter is filled with hot weather amenities like a water park, beach club, and freshwater lagoon, all of which will be operated by a vaccinated crew.
“I am especially pleased that Royal Caribbean … selected the Bahamas as a homeport when sailing resumes,” Hubert Minnis, prime minister of The Bahamas, said in the press release. “Cruising is a vital part of The Bahamas’ economy and having Royal Caribbean and their guests return to our shores will contribute greatly to restoring and reactivating tourism.”
Guests will also have to adhere to the country’s travel requirements, which include presenting a negative PCR test before traveling and testing again after arriving.
UK residents eager for cruising to return will finally get to sail aboard a cruise ship this summer – as long as they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
On March 17, Carnival Corp’s UK brand, P&O Cruises, announced its Ultimate Escape UK sailings from July to September. This new collection – which will cruise along the UK coast – is made up of shorter trips on P&O’s Britannia ship, and week-long sailings on its new Iona ship.
The Britannia sailings will shuttle guests on three, four, and six-night cruises starting at £449, about $620, per person. This price then goes up for the seven-night Iona sailings, which will start at £1,199, about $1,670, for its maiden trip.
Besides prices and duration, the two ships’ sailing timelines will also look different: Britannia will sail from June 27 to September 19, while Iona will only be cruising from August 7 to September 18. Despite these differences, both ships will be departing from Southampton, England and will include all the classic cruising amenities, from fine dining to live shows to spas.
“As we have spent the majority of the last year at home, to be able to have a restorative and relaxing break, sit on deck with a sea view in the summer sunshine and then enjoy an indulgent dinner and show – it’s certainly what we all need this year and we cannot wait to have our guests back on board,” Paul Ludlow, president of P&O Cruises, said in a statement.
However, these sailings won’t be anything more than a staycation for locals: the cruises will only be available to UK residents who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at least seven days before the trip. This vaccination decision stemmed directly from the “advanced progress of the UK vaccination program and strong expressed preference on the part of our guests,” the cruise line said in a press release.
“While there is still uncertainty about holidays abroad this summer, we are delighted to be able to offer our guests the ultimate escape here in the UK with the reassurance that we will take care of everything,” Ludlow said in a statement.
Besides the vaccine mandate, the cruises will also be implementing health protocols that have been created with experts, scientists, and the UK government. This includes mandatory travel insurance, social distancing measures, and mask-wearing “in certain areas of the ship.” The crew will also be quarantined and tested throughout the sailings.
Eager cruisers will finally be able to cruise around the Bahamas this summer aboard Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity ship.
In total, Crystal Cruises will be offering 32 seven-night trips from July to October starting from Bahamas’ Nassau or Bimini. The cruises will then shuttle passengers to five other destinations around the country: San Salvador, Long Island, Great Exuma, Harbour Island, and Bimini or Nassau, the latter depending on the sailing’s starting point.
“Crystal Cruises will go on record as the only cruise line offering Bahamas-only voyages … and the support that these cruises will bring to multiple communities within the country will be tremendous,” Dionisio D’Aguilar, Bahamas’ minister of tourism and aviation, said in a statement. The Crystal Serenity will also be the “first ocean ship to sail from the Americas” since the ongoing cruising pause first began in 2020, according to a blog post from the Bahamas.
Bookings for the tropical cruises will open on March 18 starting at $2,000 per person. The sailings will also follow Crystal Cruises’ “Crystal Clean+” measures, which include arrangements like contactless dining, mask-wearing on certain parts of the ship, and social distancing protocols.