MSC Cruises Announces Return to Cruising in Information Packed Press Conference
In a press conference held on August 3, 2020, MSC Cruises CEO, Gianni Onorato announced they plan to resume cruises in the Mediterranean as early as August 15, 2020. The departure dates however, are contingent upon approval by the Italian Government, which MSC hopes to receive this week.
Mr. Onorato stated “I am pleased that after so many months of difficult moments that we have all been through, we can start talking about the possible re-start of cruise operations for MSC Cruises. The last month has been very hard for everyone at MSC, for many industries, for many companies. It’s been a big sacrifice for everyone in this period.”
Mr. Onorato continued to thank the crew, and acknowledge the suffering and difficulty crew faced as they’ve patiently endured prolonged repatriation and missing family members.
MSC Cruises Ready to Restart Cruises
MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica are “ready” to gradually resume operations. They are “ready to start”, but are waiting for the final approval from the Italian Government. The Greek and Maltese governments have already given MSC the “go ahead” to cruise.
- MSC Grandiosa is set to sail round trip out of Genoa, and will visit Rome, Naples, Palermo, Sicily and Malta for 7 night cruises.
- MSC Magnifica will sail out of Bari, and visit three Greek ports, then Trieste before returning to Bari.
But… Not For Everyone
These MSC cruises are open only to guests coming from Schengen Countries.
The Schengen area covers 26 countries without border controls between the countries. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Going Beyond – A Sanitary “Bubble”
MSC Cruises has worked with a variety of authorities in Europe, and globally, to ensure they go beyond guidelines set by authorities, to create a “sanitary bubble” for guests and crew. They anticipate that once cruising resumes, they will eventually be able to extend into other countries once again – such as Spain.
MSC Cruises will require universal testing for all guests during embarkation. It was very clear that ALL guests will ONLY be permitted on the ship, once tested. The testing will be done in different ways, based on their level of risk. High risk guests from high risk areas (as defined by the European Centers for Disease Control) will need to provide a PCR molecular test completed 72 in their home country hours prior to embarkation.
All other guests (from lower risk countries) will be tested in the cruise terminal. They will use a “mass testing” technology, a nasopharyngeal swab test which provides results in 30 minutes.
All cruise terminals with embarkation of guests will have medical stations where guests will be invited to swab test. Once tested, they can proceed to check in, then they will wait 60-90 minutes before they can clear to board.
Any guest with a positive test, or high temperature will be denied boarding. Guests will also be required to present a health questionnaire outlining medical and travel history to ensure guests are joining the ship safely. Details on the questionnaire were not discussed.
Protocol for Crew
MSC Cruises will require three COVID tests for crew. The first test happens in their home country, prior to flying to the cruise port. The second test, an Immunofluorescence test, happens on arrival at the cruise terminal. Lastly, the crew will quarantine for 5 days onboard, test for a third time, then will be released from isolation to duty.
During the cruise season, all crew will continue to be tested every month. Crew temperature will be taken daily.
Crew shore visits will be kept to a minimum and will ONLY be permitted as part of an organized tour.
New Protocol for Passengers
- Social distancing will be required, and guests will be urged to keep 1 meter distance from one another.
- Guest capacity will cap at 70% to allow for 10 square meters (from 7) of public space onboard per guest.
- Masks will be required whenever social distancing is not possible. Guests will find complimentary face masks in their cabin every morning, and all around the ship at main venues.
- Masks will need to be worn when going to the restaurant (but not while dining), during some events, and during other high contact periods.
- Guests will be temperature checked every day.
No More Independent Excursions – For Now
Perhaps the most notable announcement is that passengers will ONLY be permitted to go ashore as part of an organized tour. Upon booking, guests will be informed they will only be able to disembark through organized tours sold or included through the cruise line.
What about excursion cost? MSC cruises are sold as “experiences”. Some experiences/cabin levels will offer included excursions. For those guests not booking an experience with included excursions, they will be able to book low-cost packages and a-la-carte experiences.
MSC Cruises Bella experience guests will receive one included excursion, Fantastica guests will receive 2, and Aurea will receive 3. Yacht Club guests will have all excursions included.
You can upgrade your excursion for an extra charge, or purchase a package for 100 Euro for three excursions.
- Increased cleaning in cabins and public areas will be a special focus. These critical 100 touch points will receive special care, and guests will be encouraged to use one of the more than 100 hand sanitizing stations around the ship.
- Guests will be reminded of these practices many times on the cruise.
- MSC will provide 100% fresh air to cabins and public areas. They will also use ultraviolet light technology in public areas and cabins, as well as in the medical centers.
- Guests will no longer have the need to visit the front desk. Virtual assistance will be available 24/7.
- Guest activities will change- some activities will reduce up to 50%.
- More show/entertainment sessions will be offered due to 50% capacity reduction in theatres. Guests will be spaced with social distancing in mind.
- No sauna and turkish bath activities will be permitted at first.
- Sun loungers in the pool areas and open decks will be sanitized repeatedly.
- Pools and slides will be available, but with limits. A 50 square meter pool can only hold 12 people at a time, per social distancing guidelines. Staff will monitor these rules.
How Food Service Will Work
- Guests will not serve themselves in buffet type restaurants, but can choose their food items and will be served by an MSC staff member.
- Dining rooms will be spaced to provide for social distancing.
- Menus will be offered via QR code, to avoid the use of paper.
- Larger tables for groups traveling together will still be provided.
What Happens if Passengers Test Positive or Fall Ill?
- Medical staff will receive new training, and the line has established a new Health Protocol Compliance position onboard.
- The medical center will be open 24/7 and they will house machines for testing.
- If a guest has symptoms of any kind, they may contact the medical center immediately free of charge for assessment.
- 10% of cabins (up to 250 cabins) have been dedicated to isolation, in case of a “suspect case, or cases”.
- Communication with shoreside COVID facilities (hotels, etc) and authorities will be maintained in the event a positive passenger, with or without symptoms needs to be removed from the ship and housed in a facility for isolation.
- Positive guests with no symptoms can return home (using the insurance mentioned below) and quarantine in their home country.
- Passengers will definitely NOT be quarantined onboard in the event of an outbreak.
Every guest can purchase special COVID insurance to comprehensively cover them in the event they fall ill and cannot cruise. That insurance will cover the guest for a refund if they are denied boarding.
If they are diagnosed positive, the insurance will cover transportation home. If a guest is sent home early due to being a “suspect case”, the remaining part of the cruise will be fully refunded, using the insurance.
Contact Tracing Bracelets
- Proximity and contact tracing will take place through a bracelet, worn by EVERYONE on the ship. If a guest or crew become ill, the bracelet will have tracked who the passenger had contact with and staff can perform contact tracing accordingly.
- Data from the bracelet will be destroyed 14 days after the guests disembarks from the ship.
Is This Forever?
The line expects eventually to “relax the measures”, as it is a very dynamic situation. Read more about the line’s health and safety protocols released earlier this week.
How about the United States?
Mr. Onorato remained cautious but hopeful, and stated “We are at a different level in terms of evolution of the pandemic between Europe and the US.” He expressed hope that US operations could resume soon, and that the European resumption would be a learning opportunity.
More MSC Content
- MSC Meraviglia Review Podcast.
- 10 Things to Know about MSC’s Ocean Cay Marine Reserve.
- MSC Meraviglia Yacht Club Menus.
- MSC Meraviglia Ship Tour.
- 10 Reasons the MSC Yacht Club is Worth the Splurge.
We’d love to year from you
Do you think these measures will be taken once cruising resumes in the United States? Please feel free to direct message us on Instagram or Facebook with your thoughts, and until next time, we’ll see you on the high seas!