A cruise ship with around 160 people that has sailed from the Israeli port of Haifa is expected to arrive at the port of Limassol early on Tuesday.

This was a far lower number than the 2,000 passengers originally expected to board the cruise liner the Rhapsody of the Seas which docked at Haifa to bring US citizens and some other foreign nationals to Limassol.

Competent sources told CNA that instead around 160 people boarded the ship on Monday, contrary to estimates of numbers that were close to the ship’s capacity.

This fact makes it easier to handle the procedures at the port of Limassol, which was ready to welcome a larger number of travellers.

The cruise ship is expected to arrive at the port of Limassol at around 6:00 am on Tuesday.

The US Embassy in Nicosia on Monday said it was cooperating with Cyprus for the safe passage of US citizens from Haifa to Limassol port.

According to foreign ministry spokesperson Theodoros Gotsis, the Rhapsody of the Sea is expected to arrive in Limassol on Tuesday morning, depending on the boarding process. The journey takes 10-12 hours.

Asked whether the ship will only transport Americans, Gotsis clarified that “the specific repatriation cruise aboard the ‘Rhapsody of the Seas’ is organised by the US embassy in Nicosia, in collaboration with the Republic of Cyprus.

“While it primarily serves American citizens, arrangements might have been made for the transportation of citizens of other countries as well,” he said.

The evacuation option by sea was confirmed on Sunday on platform X by US officials.

The US embassy in Nicosia encouraged US citizens to make their own reservations for onward travel from Larnaca or Paphos airports in Cyprus.

It said buses would take people from Limassol port to both airports, but onward journeys were the responsibility of travellers.

Regarding the accommodation of revised number of people – 160 instead of 2,000 ­ -expected to arrive in Limassol on Tuesday until their return to their home countries, Gotsis stated that arrangements have been made for their stay in state facilities.

In the meantime, stringent security measures are being taken and expected to continue tomorrow at the port. The police are maintaining confidentiality regarding the operational plan to be followed.

Meanwhile the embassy discouraged fleeing US citizens from making travel arrangements through the north.

“The US embassy cannot support any access or movements in the area north of the buffer zone,” it added.

US undersecretary of state Victoria Nuland, in a post on platform X, thanked Cyprus for its support.

“Grateful to Republic of Cyprus president for the support his government has shown to US citizens transiting Cyprus following the horrific Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel,” she wrote.

On Saturday the Biden administration ordered ‘non emergency’ staff to leave Israel and urged Americans in Gaza to head the crossing to Egypt in the hope it will be open.

Gotsis told CyBC on Monday morning that the government has been approached by other countries to evacuate their citizens.

Meanwhile a UK flight landed in Cyprus on Sunday carrying 115 mainly UK nationals,

Gotsis said a four-member Cypriot family was also on the flight who are permanent residents of Israel. Three members of the family are Cyprus passport holders and one an Israeli, he said.

A further UK government-arranged evacuation flight out of Tel Aviv, carrying 18 British nationals, also arrived on Saturday morning at Larnaca with more flights expected to follow in coming days.

In addition, a Royal Danish plane landed in Paphos on Saturday from Israel with 80 passengers on board.

US nationals and their family members arrive at the port in Haifa. The British foreign office said its flights were available to British nationals, including dual nationals, and dependants if travelling with a British national normally resident in the UK.

Each ticket costs £300, which it said “reflects the costs of operating the flight”.

The Cyprus government on Tuesday activated the national ‘Estia’ action plan for the reception of people fleeing the ongoing conflict in Israel since when planes and ships have arrived.

In addition to the US, other countries that have applied evacuate citizens from Israel through the Estia plan include Denmark, the UK, Portugal, Holland, Belgium and Germany.