As vaccines roll out through the United States and the rest of the world, we are seeing encouraging numbers when it comes to new cases of COVID-19. In the United States, there is a significant downward trend in reported cases, which were at an all-time high back in January with 300,619 new cases of COVID-19 reported by The New York Times on January 8. Now we are seeing a fraction of those cases, with an average of about 67,000 cases a day over the past week.
According to Bloomberg, the Republic of Seychelles, a cruise destination off the eastern coast of Africa, leads the globe in vaccination efforts with 58.2 percent of its almost 100,000 person population vaccinated with their first dose. The Republic of Seychelles is followed closely by Israel, which has given 52.4 percent of its population a first dose of the vaccine. Of course, we must look at other numbers here. While the Seychelles has successfully vaccinated more of its population with first doses, Israel leads by nearly 13 percent when it comes to second doses administered, with 37.6 percent of its population fully vaccinated. It is also crucial to look at the population of these two countries, the Republic of Seychelles with 100,000 inhabitants, and Israel with over 9 million. While we will be talking mostly about Israel today, I wanted to mention The Seychelles because they are one of the first countries to allow fully vaccinated travelers to visit without a quarantine period so long as they have received a negative COVID test.
As Israel continues to roll out its successful vaccination campaign, we are also getting positive news regarding travel to The Holy Land. Royal Caribbean's new ship, Odyssey of the Seas will sail from Israel for the first time beginning in May 2021. While this isn't the first report of voyages resuming during the pandemic, there is a definite correlation between Israel's vaccination efforts and its travel restrictions.
"Thanks to the millions of vaccines we have brought, I am proud that Israel will be the first country in the world to launch Royal Caribbean's new flagship. Royal Caribbean’s decision to come to Israel is a significant expression of confidence in our policy. This is an important economic, touristic moment for the State of Israel," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Israel is a global model of success. We will continue our program – the 'green passport' – so that we can get out of the COVID-19 virus in peace."
Royal Caribbean will work with Israel's heath and tourism authorities to offer the first fully-vaccinated sailings in the cruise industry, with vaccinations required for all guests and crew over the age of 16.
Looking at countries like Israel, it is becoming more obvious that people are going to need to be vaccinated in order to take part in certain activities. An article written for The New York Times titled "As Israel Reopens, 'Whoever Does Not Get Vaccinated Will Be Left Behind'" explores Israel's vaccination efforts: "'Getting vaccinated is a moral duty. It is part of our mutual responsibility,' said the health minister, Yuli Edelstein. He also has a new mantra: 'Whoever does not get vaccinated will be left behind.'" And left behind they shall be. While a vaccination may not be required in Israel, the health ministry is currently proposing legislation that would require unvaccinated employees who work with the public to be tested for COVID every two days.
The same New York Times article quotes Ofek Hacohen, who manages vacation rentals in Jerusalem. He believes that the risk of COVID has been exaggerated stating: "'I won't get vaccinated. I'll surely participate in demonstrations. I believe I won't be alone,' he said, adding, 'I can survive without going to the theater, to soccer matches or to a restaurant. It's annoying but what can I do?'"
For those of us looking to cruise over the next year, a vaccine may be the only way.
Royal Caribbean is not the first company to resume sailing in 2021. MSC Cruises' Grandiosa has been sailing in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year and will be joined by MSC Seaside starting May 1, 2021. The company also has plans to resume sailing in Japan in April. There have also been many small ship cruise lines and river cruise companies who have successfully returned to the waterways since the pandemic started.
With so much hope about the future of travel, we are finally seeing the light at the end of a very long tunnel. Here at Avid Cruiser, we have had an increase in those looking for our recommendations for cruises. So even in our small-ish community of cruisers, we are seeing significantly more people looking to plan vacations for 2021 and 2022.
With so much positive news about travel, I can't help but write this story with a smile on my face – especially since I've just gotten the call that my dad has received his first vaccine dose.
We're preparing ourselves to travel this year, and we hope you are too. For now, I am writing from the comfort of my living room, as I have done for almost a year now, but I hope I will be writing you from the deck of a ship soon.
Your Travel Specialist
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Fountain Valley, California 92708