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Royal Caribbean Yanks Newest Ship from Haifa, but Will Politics Ruin a Florida Homecoming? | Frommer's Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean Yanks Newest Ship from Haifa, but Will Politics Ruin a Florida Homecoming?

Americans who had hoped to spend some quality summer time aboard Royal Caribbean's newest megaship, Odyssey of the Seas, might now get their shot.

In late winter, the cruise line announced plans to move the inauguration of the custom-made vessel out of Florida to a series of sailings from Haifa on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. But the crumbling political and humanitarian situation between Israelis and Palestinians have quashed that idea.

The ship was already in Haifa, preparing to sail for vaccinated Israelis beginning on June 2. Now the 4,180-passenger ship will instead head back to Florida, where the vessel was supposed to debut to begin with.

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Unfortunately, the situation is far from settled in Florida, either, but for other reasons.

For one, large cruises have not yet been officially cleared to begin sailing again from the United States.

Safety procedures are also still in dispute.

Royal Caribbean originally announced that this summer's Mediterranean Odyssey of the Seas sailings would only be for vaccinated passengers—a protocol in line with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

But Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, has issued an executive order, soon to be a state law, forbidding businesses from requiring customers to be vaccinated.

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That makes it illegal for cruise lines to ask passengers if they have been vaccinated—even though that's exactly what the CDC says needs to happen to ensure outbreaks are controlled.

This puts federal public health recommendations at odds with Florida's regulations, a stalemate that has caused the world's third-largest cruise line, Norwegian, to threaten to move operations to another state.

"At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers, and rudders, and God forbid we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from,” said Norwegian's CEO Frank Del Rio on an earnings call last week. “We can operate from the Caribbean for a ship that otherwise would have gone to Florida.”

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Without federal permission to sail and with no legal way to adhere to official CDC health guidelines, Royal Caribbean has yet to announce any other specifics about Florida dates and procedures for Odyssey of the Seas—or even if, like Norwegian, Royal Caribbean management may be forced to consider departing from the Caribbean to avoid the dysfunction of American health measures altogether.

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