Royal Caribbean alters 2024 cruise itineraries to skip Israel

By Doyinsola Oladipo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Royal Caribbean Group is removing Israel from its 2024 itineraries due to the Israel-Hamas war, according to an email sent to travel agents on Thursday seen by Reuters, making it the second major U.S. cruise operator to alter its plans over the conflict.

The Miami, Florida-based cruise operator is modifying itineraries as late as October 2024 for its Royal Caribbean International unit that stops in Israel, the email said.

Travel has declined sharply across Israel and the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. International air carriers have halted trips to top destinations such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as the conflict continues.

The cruise operator did not respond to a request for comment. Competitor Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings told agents on Tuesday that it was removing Israel from its 2024 itineraries.

Royal Caribbean told investors last week that itineraries that included Israel account for less than 1.5% of its capacity for 2024.

“We don’t know how long this conflict is going to go on for, which could very much inform where the consumer wants to go next year,” Jason Liberty, Royal Caribbean Group chief executive officer, said on the company’s Oct. 26 earnings call.

The company will also redeploy the ship meant to sail in Israel in 2024 for cruises out of Boston, Massachusetts, according to the email.

Liberty said it was too early in the European cruise season for the company to say whether the conflict was having an impact on the demand to sail in that region.

Norwegian Chief Executive Harry Sommer told investors on Wednesday that it was seeing a rise in cancellations and a slowdown in bookings to the region near Israel, primarily in short-term reservations.

(Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)