The first European cruise operations by major cruise lines have restarted. On August 17, MSC cruises MSC Grandiosa started a seven-day cruise from Genoa, that saw guests comply with stringent protocols under which they arrived at the cruise terminal at an allocated time slot and underwent a screening that included a temperature check, medical review of a health questionnaire and an antigen COVID-19 swab test.
Once on board, they received an “MSC for Me” wristband, which provided contactless options on board, such as opening the cabin or making payments, and which would also help to facilitate proximity and contact tracing, if needed.
Further guests later embarked in the ports of Civitavecchia (Rome) Naples and Palermo before the ship embarked on an itinerary that included call at Valetta in Malta.
Guests were able to go ashore at the various ports of call, but only as part of an MSC Cruises shore excursion that included traveling on sanitized transfers with social distancing in place accompanied by tour guides and drivers who were also adhering to strict health and safety measures.
On the return leg of the trip, from Malta to Genoa, guests who had gone ashore in Valetta took a further test, as required by the Italian authorities, and all tested negative.
The 6,600-passenger ship carried only about 1,000 guests on this first cruise and, at its conclusion, an MSC spokesperson said, “’Everything ran smoothly, both in terms of disembarkation from the first cruise and embarkation for the next one.”
According to travel trade reports, one family broke away from the organized MSC tour in Naples were denied boarding.
MSC Cruises planned restart of operations also includes an easter Mediterranean itinerary on the MSC Grandiosa. The start of those cruises was originally planned for August 29, but they have now been postponed until September 24. MSC Cruises says this is in connection with the recent introduction of additional testing measures for residents of Italy who have traveled to Greece. As a result, said MSC, “we are seeing cancellations and a softening in demand since the ship’s itinerary includes as many as three ports in that country. This has led to the decision to delay the restart of the ship by four weeks.
MSC Cruises says it “believes that reservations will start to pick up again in the coming weeks due to the appeal of the itinerary. MSC Magnifica’s sales are open to residents of the Schengen area, at the same time in this early phase of restart the majority of guests are expected to be Italian nationals and residents.”
FIRST CARNIVAL BRAND TO RESTART OPERATIONS
Yesterday, the first Carnival brand to restart operations, Costa Cruises, reported that Costa Deliziosa had set sail from Trieste on what will be the first of a program of seven-day cruises calling only at the Italian ports of Bari, Brindisi, Corigliano-Rossano, Siracusa and Catania, and reserved for guests resident in Italy.
“The company has developed a health & safety protocol including COVID-19 swab testing for all guests and crew, temperature screening, tours of destinations on protected excursions, physical distancing thanks partly to a reduction in the number of passengers, new ways of enjoying shipboard amenities and services, enhanced sanitization and increased health care facilities,” said the company.
On September 19, Costa Diadema will also be back in service, departing from Genoa, with another two ships gradually due to resume operations from October.