At a time when the world seems more locked down than ever, many people had no idea that a major cruise ship line had already resumed service. For the second time since the start of the pandemic, MSC has taken the lead for the return of cruising, blazing the trail for other ships to follow.
In fact, the MSC Grandiosa has already been sailing through the Mediterranean for the past 6 days, full of happy guests on board.
The ship returns to its port in Genoa, Italy tomorrow where it will disembark passengers, undergo a deep cleaning process, and then head back out for another week-long sailing later that afternoon.
The Grandiosa’s next itinerary starting on February 1st, will include domestic stops in Rome, Naples, Palermo and even on to neighboring Malta, before returning again to Genoa port.
At each port stop, guests can still leave the ship and go on excursions, albeit in a different manner than normal. The MSC website states:
“MSC Cruises' rigorous health and safety protocol makes these voyages one of the safest holiday options thanks to the creation of a “safe bubble” within which guests and crew can spend their time.
To preserve a safe bubble on board the ship, guests only go ashore as part of protected shore excursions so that guests can be protected even while ashore by measures similar to those on board.”
This isn’t the first time MSC resumed services during the pandemic. In August 2020, when Europe was enjoying a rebound in tourism throughout the summer months, MSC resumed several ships and itineraries to meet the demand of over 30,000 guests. However, on December 4, 2020 MSC was forced to pause sailings due to increased restrictions by the Italian government as most of Europe went into lockdown over the holidays.
It wasn’t long before MSC hit the open seas again, as on January 7 2021 they made the announcement of the Grandiosa’s return for January 25th, the very ship that is currently sailing with thousands of guests onboard.
Covid Testing Part of MSC's Success
One of the methods that has allowed MSC to resume service has been their attention to detail when it comes to testing, screening, and monitoring for Covid-19.
A press release for the Grandiosa’s return outlines that:
“Prior to embarkation, all guests pass through a series of health checks, including COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew, as part of MSC Cruises comprehensive health and safety protocol, devised by the Company with the support of international experts and approved by the relevant authorities in the countries visited by MSC Cruises ships currently or due to be at sea. The health and safety measures also include a dedicated response plan that can be activated in collaboration with the authorities.”
They’ve also been quick to learn and adapt as they go, adding additional measures where they see potential risk
“,some of the measures were enhanced including the introduction of mid-cruise testing for guests and weekly testing for crew as well as further enhanced hygiene and sanitation measures and the. Everyone on board observes social distancing as well as wearing masks in public areas, and the guest technology has been leveraged to facilitate onboard contact tracing.”
More Cruises To Come
If all continues to go well with the next 2 upcoming Grandiosa sailings, MSC plans to launch a 2nd ship back into service on February 14th, the Magnifica.
The Magnifica will be a longer 10-night sailing leaving from Genoa and following the Grandiosa’s itinerary, but with the addition of two ports stops in Greece.
Ken Muscat, EVP & Chief Operating Officer at MSC Cruises USA, proudly tweeted “The beautiful MSC Grandiosa sailing in the Mediterranean – proving cruising can resume safely”
When Will Cruising Return To North America?
While cruising might be making a comeback in European waters, American cruisers will have to wait a little longer. All major lines have suspended sailings in the U.S. until at least April 2021, and in some cases, even into summer.
In 2020 the CDC issued the framework for the safe resumption of cruises but has yet to provide American-based cruise lines with further instructions on how to actually commence the first phase.
Many cruise giants have already repositioned their ships in U.S. ports, but have yet to sail a single test cruise.
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