MSC Readying Two Ships for Cruising; Unveils Health Plan

MSC Grandiosa

MSC Cruises is preparing for a potential restart this summer in the Mediterranean and is waiting on final approvals to have the Grandiosa and Magnifica start seven-day cruises.

The MSC Grandiosa will offer seven-night cruises in the Western Mediterranean and MSC Magnifica will serve the East Mediterranean, according to a press release.

Their actual departure dates will be determined in accordance with the guidelines received by the relevant authorities.

The itineraries that are being planned include Greece and Malta where the authorities have not only re-opened their ports to cruising but also have approved the health and safety protocol to support MSC Cruises’ restart of operations, according to a statement. 

Speaking today at a press conference held in Italy, MSC Cruises’ CEO Gianni Onorato revealed the full details of the company’s comprehensive health and safety protocol that has been developed to support the restart of operations in the Mediterranean, designed to protect the health and safety of guests and crew as well as the local communities, according to MSC.

A dedicated task force, with the input and support of leading external medical experts, developed a robust protocol with new MSC Cruises’ specific operating procedures that go beyond the actual regional and national guidelines and effectively set a new standard. 

For this initial phase of the restart of operations, the two ships will initially only welcome guests who are residents in Schengen countries. Additionally, their itineraries have been designed according to the accessibility of the ports, reducing — where possible — the need for guests to make use of public transport or flights, MSC announced. 

In the U.S., MSC ships will only return to service once the necessary approvals have been received from the relevant local and national authorities, including the CDC, as well as across the regions where the ships will operate.

MSC said it had set up a cross-functional task force comprised of in-house experts in the areas of Medical Services, Public Health and Sanitation, Hotel Services, HVAC and other Shipboard Engineering Systems, Information Technology and Logistics. It also hired Aspen Medical to further assist with the development of the protocol and operating procedures. In addition, MSC established a blue-ribbon COVID Expert Group.

New Health Protocols:

1. Universal health screening of guests prior to embarkation that comprises three comprehensive steps: a temperature check, a health questionnaire and a COVID-19 swab test. Depending on the screening results and according to the guest’s medical or travel history, a secondary health screening or testing will take place. Any guest who tests positive, displays symptoms or a temperature will be denied boarding. Following guidelines from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, guests travelling from countries categorised as high risk will be required to take a molecular RT-PCR test, to be done within 72 hours prior to joining the ship. All crew members will be tested for COVID-19 prior to embarkation as well as regularly during their contract.

2. Elevated sanitation and cleaning measures supported by the introduction of new cleaning methods, the use of hospital-grade disinfectant products and the sanitation of the air on board with UV-C light technology that kills 99.97% of microbes.

3. Social distancing will be enabled through the reduction of the overall capacity of guests on board, allowing for more space for guests, approximately 10 m² (about 108 sq. ft) per person based on 70% overall capacity. Venue capacity will be reduced, activities will be modified to allow for smaller groups and guests should pre-book services and activities to manage guest numbers. When social distancing is not possible, guests will be asked to wear a face mask, for instance in lifts. Face masks will be provided daily to guests in their cabins and will be available around the ship.

4. Enhanced medical facilities and services with highly qualified staff trained, the necessary equipment to test, evaluate and treat suspected COVID-19 patients and the availability of free treatment at the onboard Medical Centre for any guest with symptoms. Dedicated isolation cabins will be available to enable isolation of any suspected cases and close contacts.

5. Ongoing health monitoring will be conducted throughout the cruise. Guests and crew will have their temperature checked daily either when they return from ashore or at dedicated stations around the ship to monitor the health status of every guest and crew member. During this initial phase of operations, as a further enhanced measure of protection and to avoid risks to the health of guests and their fellow cruisers, guests will only go ashore as part of an organised MSC Cruises’ excursion. This means that MSC Cruises can protect their health while ashore with excursions that will be delivered with the same high standards of health and safety as on board. We will ensure that transfers are properly sanitised and that there is adequate space. Tour guides and drivers will also undergo health screening and will wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

6. A contingency response plan will be activated if a suspected case is identified, in close cooperation with the national health authorities. The suspected case and close contacts will follow isolation measures and may be disembarked according to local and national regulations.

The MSC COVID-19 Protection Plan will provide guests with additional peace of mind for the summer cruises. This will cover the guest if they become infected prior to their departure if they are not able to travel, during the cruise for medical expenses and after the cruise if the guest falls sick. The MSC COVID-19 Protection Plan is currently available only to guests from Schengen countries. 

A redesigned embarkation procedure with digital check-in processes has been implemented to make the process more seamless and contactless with arrival time slots to manage guest flow.  Guests will undergo a COVID-19 swab test, a temperature check and an in-person check of the health questionnaire to ensure that they are healthy and eligible to cruise. If further checks are needed, these will be carried out by medical staff and, if needed, a further COVID-19 test could be carried out.

For guests onboard both ships, the MSC for Me app will support and facilitate the new health and safety measures. The app can be used to book services as well as to manage their daily activities onboard and source information.

Additionally, onboard MSC Grandiosa every guest and crew member will be provided with a complimentary MSC for Me wristband, which facilitates contactless transactions around the ship as well as providing contact and proximity tracing.

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