MSC’s Onorato: ‘We Are Restarting the Business’

The health and safety protocols in place aboard the MSC Grandiosa have laid the foundation to add more ships back in service in the coming months, according to MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato.

Sailing since last August, the Grandiosa has led the way for the industry in Europe, sailing to Italian ports and Valletta, Malta. 

By August 1, MSC will scale its cruise line from one ship to 10, and have over 30,000 berths back in revenue mode across the cruise industry; more than any other cruise company.

“We are not doing anything extraordinary. We are just restarting the business,” Onorato told Cruise Industry News.

Ships will sail in the Western and Eastern Mediterranean, from and around the UK, and to Northern Europe, with MSC using a variety of homeports. 

The opening of countries and the confirmation of various ports opening to cruise calls has helped drive the deployment moves, said Onorato.

“Every day there is something new going on in terms of ports and governments reopening,” he said.

The ships won’t operate at full occupancy, however, with a number of staterooms set aside for isolation purposes per MSC health and safety protocols. 

“We can maintain our program with social distancing going up to 80 percent (occupancy),” Onorato said, “but we may not reach that from day one.”

The MSC Musica will sail on June 20 from Warnemunde, Germany

Also of note, the company will begin marketing again in its main source markets where it has been quiet for some time without ships sailing.

Among key moves, the new MSC Virtuosa will debut in the UK and the new Seashore will sail in the Western Mediterranean when she debuts on August 1.

Quickly scaling capacity in Europe, Onorato said it was a function of being a more global cruise brand with a diverse set of source markets, instead of having to rely on a strong North American base of passengers.

The company also appears to be a first-mover, working with numerous European countries and developing rigorous health protocols to operate across the continent.

MSC is in the process of recruiting and onboarding crew to get ready for its summer season, with strict testing and quarantine measures before crew can work aboard. The company will have both vaccinated and non-vaccinated crew, which will add adhere to strict health and safety protocols, including a 14-day quarantine aboard before they can work.

For passengers, MSC has yet to require a vaccination but is open to it, Onorato said, noting that as a family cruise line, MSC wants to be able to welcome passengers of all ages without penalizing families.

“Everyone will be tested before and during the cruise,” he said. “We have chosen to allow everyone to (board).”

Onorato added: “Today there is no zero risk. We can have risk mitigation but not zero risk, and our protocols are able prevent COVID cases as much as we can. But most of all it has proven to be very successful in managing a suspect case onboard with contact tracing, isolation and the immediate disembarkation of a suspect case and close contacts.”

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