MSC Cruises announced today that flagship MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica will resume operations in the Mediterranean starting from 16 and 29 August 2020 respectively, offering guests full-experience cruise holidays with the opportunity to discover five different destinations during a 7-night cruise. The two ships will be the first to implement a new comprehensive health and safety protocol that has been approved by the relevant national authorities from the countries that the ships will call along their East and West Mediterranean itineraries this summer.
Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman commented, “During the pause in our operations we focused on developing a comprehensive operating protocol that builds upon already stringent health and safety measures that have long been in place on board our ships. We have worked closely with the relevant EU-level, national health and other authorities from the countries that MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica will call along their Mediterranean itineraries to develop a comprehensive set of procedures designed to protect the health and safety of all passengers on board our ships as well as ashore to ensure that local communities feel comfortable welcoming our guests.”
Pierfrancesco Vago continued, “The new procedures include universal COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation, protected ashore visits at each destination only with an MSC Cruises excursion as added level of protection for our guests and the introduction of a COVID Protection Plan for further peace of mind for our guests. With all of these measures in place we aim to offer our guests the safest possible holiday.
MSC Grandiosa, the Company’s flagship, will offer seven-night cruises in the Western Mediterranean calling at the Italian ports of Genoa, Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples, Palermo and Valetta. MSC Magnifica will offer seven-night cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean departing from the Italian ports of Bari and Trieste, calling at the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus.
Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO commented, “We are very pleased to be able to start welcoming back guests for full-experience cruise holidays this summer, on board two of our most popular ships including our flagship MSC Grandiosa, and in the Mediterranean, the very region where our Company’s roots are and we have long been market leaders.”
MSC Cruises’ new operating protocol has been designed to protect the health and safety of guests, crew as well as the local communities that the Company’s ships visit. For this reason, it meets and goes beyond guidelines provided by key international and regional regulatory and technical bodies, as well as regulations set forth by the governments in the countries in which MSC Cruises ships operate. Additionally, RINA, the independent maritime certification corporation, has verified that the protocol meets the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) Guidance, which incorporates additional health standards including those from the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action. MSC Cruises has worked to encompass every aspect of the guest’s journey from the moment of booking to embarkation, life on board and through to the return back home, whilst preserving the uniqueness of the guest experience.
For this initial phase of the restart of operations, the two MSC Cruises ships operating in the Mediterranean for the current summer season 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 use of public transport or flights and have been planned in conjunction with the authorities.
MSC Cruises has today cancelled all other cruises in the Mediterranean from 16 August through to and including 31 October. Guests who are resident in Schengen countries, and subject to any restrictions imposed by the Italian authorities, booked on any MSC Cruises itinerary until 31 October can transfer their booking to either MSC Grandiosa or MSC Magnifica, receiving up to three complimentary shore excursions, depending on the category they book; alternatively, they will be offered a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that they can use on any ship with any itinerary in the MSC Cruises fleet sailing through to December 2021. Also, any other guests who are resident in Schengen countries and subject to any restrictions imposed by the Italian authorities, who already have an FCC voucher from previous cancelled cruises can also use their voucher on these two ships taking advantage of up to three complimentary shore excursions.
For non-Schengen residents, they will automatically be eligible for an FCC that can be used to transfer their bookings at no cost, to any ship on any itinerary in the MSC Cruises fleet sailing through to December 2021.
MSC Cruises also announced the cancellation of all U.S cruise departures up to and including the 31 October, in line with the announcement that CLIA members will voluntarily extend the suspension of cruise operations to this date. CLIA stated that “This proactive action further demonstrates the cruise industry’s commitment to public health and willingness to voluntarily suspend operations in the interest of public health and safety, as has occurred twice prior.” MSC Cruises will only restart operations in the U.S only when the time is right, following approval by the CDC and other relevant authorities across the region in observance of their requirements and guidelines.
Finally, MSC Cruises also cancelled the Far East cruises from 10 September through to and including 26 October.
All guests affected by the latest cancellations will be contacted in due course directly by MSC Cruises or their travel agent and all their options shared with them.
Beyond the summer itineraries announced today, MSC Cruises is following the evolution of the pandemic and gradual introduction of other ships coming into service is possible during this same summer period.
Today’s announcement follows the confirmation of full details of MSC Cruises programmes starting in late October this year through to November 2021, covering the Winter 2020/2021 and the Summer 2021 seasons. Ships will offer guests itineraries across all the regions traditionally served by MSC Cruises in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, the Gulf, South Africa, South America and Asia.
Regarding MSC Cruises’ itineraries beyond the current summer season, Gianni Onorato concluded: “We will closely monitor updates and new guidelines at a global, European and national level and will continuously review and update our health and safety protocol not only to make sure that its measures reflect the most updated medical know-how and technology as it becomes available but also to reflect in it the different phases in the evolution and spread of the virus and as social restrictions change over time. To this end, with time and in line with the development of the health situation ashore we are hoping to be able to relax certain measures while continuing to ensure that the health and safety of everyone on board our ships remains our outmost priority. At the same time, we will always make sure that our guests can enjoy and relax whilst on holiday on board one of MSC Cruises ships the way they always have – now including this summer.”