At a press briefing, Gianni Onorato, CEO, MSC Cruises, laid out the details of the company’s comprehensive health and safety protocol, developed as the line plans to restart operations in the Mediterranean region.
While awaiting necessary final approvals, MSC Cruises expects to restart with two ships, MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica in the western and eastern Mediterranean, respectively. Onorato said total guest occupancy will be limited to 70 percent. In the ship’s theater, occupancy will be only 50 percent.
“We are ready to go,” said Onorato, noting that the company had worked hard to make that a possibility “for our crew, our employees, our guests.” He said the cruise line would like to start service on August 15, but is still awaiting approval from Italian authorities.
Departure dates will be determined in accordance with the guidelines received by those authorities. The itineraries that are planned include Greece and Malta where the authorities have reopened ports to cruising and approved the line’s health and safety protocols.
For this initial phase of the restart, only guests who are residents of Schengen countries will be accepted onboard. No guests from the U.S. or elsewhere will be accepted.
Preparing to Sail
Highlights for guests considering sailing this month or in the future include:
- MSC Cruises said it has worked closely with authorities in the countries where the company’s ships will call to develop its new, comprehensive protocols.
- A dedicated task force, with the input and support of leading external medical experts, has developed that protocol. New MSC Cruises’ operating procedures go beyond regional and national guidelines.
- The new procedures include Universal COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation; use of only MSC shore excursions at local ports; and the introduction of “MSC COVID Protection Plan,” an insurance policy for guests.
- RINA the independent maritime certification corporation, has verified that the protocol meets the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) guidance, which incorporates additional health standards including those from the E.U. Healthy Gateways Joint Action.
Restart in the Mediterranean
Mediterranean itineraries have been designed according to the accessibility of the ports, reducing the need for guests to make use of public transport or flights (wherever possible). They’ve also been planned in conjunction with governmental authorities.