MSC Cruises has announced that it will be offering a “special range of short breaks and week-long cruises around the British Isles” in summer 2021, starting from May 20, for UK holidaymakers only.
Departing from the new terminal in the port of Southampton, these first sailings will kick off with a series of short cruises and will be followed by seven-night sailings visiting “some of the UK’s favorite destinations and offering additional ports of embarkation to guests,” the cruise line said in a press release.
“Our experience of sailing safely and responsibly since August last year in the Mediterranean under our industry-leading protective health and safety protocol has given us a great deal of knowledge and data about safe cruises,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO at MSC Cruises.
“We also remain confident that we will soon be able to welcome British guests back on board one of our ships further afield, once current international travel restrictions are lifted and more of our ships will have restarted across the Mediterranean as well as other areas traditionally favored by the British,” he added.
Antonio Paradiso, the managing director at MSC Cruises UK & Ireland, said that the cruise line’s hope is to “offer every type of holidaymaker the chance to escape this summer – from grandparents to teens and even the smallest of passengers looking to explore.”
Both vaccinated and non-vaccinated guests would be welcome, Paradiso explained.
“All guests will be tested prior to embarkation, while non-vaccinated guests will also be required to show proof of negative test done within 72 hours prior to embarkation,” he said. “Crew in addition to the protocol-mandated test and 14-day quarantine prior to embarkation will also receive weekly testing, in addition to other ongoing health monitoring measures.”
According to Paradiso, MSC Cruises has carried more than 50,000 guests since its restart of operations in August 2020 under the protection of a health and safety protocol.
“It is built around a comprehensive strategy that includes universal testing of all guests and crew prior to embarkation and periodically throughout the cruise, deep and ongoing sanitation, protected-only shore excursions, as well as many other measures that we are used to in our daily lives, such as social distancing and the wearing of face coverings. We will sail with a reduced capacity so that guests have even more space,” he said.
“Our industry-leading protocol was developed with input from international health experts – including our own ‘Blue-Ribbon’ expert group – and in close cooperation with relevant health, transport and safety authorities and was designed to respond to a fluctuating health situation ashore. This allowed us to support continued cruise operations in the Mediterranean through to today, safely welcoming guests onboard from across the Schengen area throughout the different phases of the evolution of the pandemic in the various countries,” he added.
Paradiso said that MSC will continue to adapt the protocol in line with relevant requirements and guidance, to “provide the (UK guests with the) same seamless experience they are used to when cruising.”
“We understand how important this particular summer is to holidaymakers and we’re committed to providing guests with a range of fantastic activities in a healthy and safe environment. Guests can expect a variety of fun and engaging areas for children with play areas for a range of ages and world-class dining and round-the-clock entertainment offerings that provide multi-generational groups with a holiday option that suits this summer,” he said.
According to Paradiso, MSC Cruises is also working on a program of protected shore excursions for its guests to experience the destinations it will visit, but “of course, this is subject to prevailing circumstances and local guidance at the time of sailing.”
“We believe that this special offering will provide UK holidaymakers with a unique summer of cruising and be the ultimate destination for families and friends to reconnect and create new memories this summer. In the meantime, we continue to engage with the UK Government and all relevant authorities as we evaluate the ever-changing travel landscape and prepare for any potential roadblocks that could arise as we journey on the roadmap to recovery. Whilst we are excited for a summer of British cruising, we remain confident that we will soon be able to welcome UK guests back onboard further afield,” he said.
Further details regarding the sailings will be announced shortly, Paradiso said, highlighting the cruise line’s commitment to providing flexibility to guests.