After suspending service in March 2020, MSC Cruises was among the first big-ship operators to sail again, with the MSC Grandiosa launching service in August 2020.
Here are the main moves that took place for the company since March 2020:
MSC Virtuosa and MSC Seashore Update
In June, MSC Cruises became one of the first cruise lines to confirm delays on its newbuild program. According to the company, the new schedule was a consequence of the temporary closure of shipyards during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Originally scheduled for an October 2020 delivery, the MSC Virtuosa was only handed over on February 1, 2021.
The MSC Seashore, meanwhile, saw its inaugural cruise pushed back to August 1.
No Ships for Sale
While other cruise lines sold off an unprecedent number of ships since the pandemic started, MSC decided to follow a different path.
Talking to Cruise Industry News in August, MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorat, said that the company had no plans to sell or retire any of its ships.
Nearly one year into the pandemic, the brand’s 17 ship fleet remains intact. The only change that took place during the period, was the delivery of the MSC Virtuosa, bringing it to 18 vessels.
Setting the Standard with a New Protocol
In August, MSC revealed its new health and safety protocol.
Created by a task force comprised of in-house experts and a blue-ribbon COVID Expert Group, it set the tone to the entire industry, as Ken Muskat, executive vice president and COO of MSC Cruises (USA) pointed out.
The protocol has nine key pillars, including physical distancing, crew and guest testing, contingency response plans, facemasks, HVAC ventilation and more. Details of it can be found here.
In order to create a “safe bubble,” the company also heavily modified its shore excursion program. Guests are only allowed to go ashore at the ports of call as part of an MSC-organized tour.
Smooth Service Resumption
After getting its new protocols approved by local authorities, MSC resumed service in the Mediterranean. The biggest ship in the fleet, the MSC Grandiosa received gusets on August 16.
The operation included calls in four different Italian ports and also in Valletta, Malta.
With high guest ratings and strict screening processes, the cruises continued until late December, when the Italian government issued a travel ban for the entire country. The Grandiosa restarted service on January 24.
Second Ship in China
In January 2021, in a major deployment move, MSC announced the addition of a second ship in the Chinese market. The new MSC Virtuosa will join the MSC Bellissima in Asia starting in 2022.
After first going into China in 2016, the company will operate two ships in the local market for the first time.
By the numbers:
- Ships shed: 0
- Ships added: + 1
Result: + 1 ships
- Berths shed: – 0,000
- Berths added: + 4,888
Result: + 4,888 berths