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Is This The Future of Cruising? MSC Returns

· Travel News

Welcome back and hello everyone,

It's been over a week since I posted, not much to warrant posting about the last week or so.

I'm thinking of starting to feature trips, hotels, destinations as part of this blog, in addition to news. We shall see.

For today I do have some interesting news & it concerns the cruise industry.

MSC Cruises, an Italian owned and operated cruise line, but does sell in the US market quite well, has released official protocols they are looking to get approved by the Italian Government. If these protocols were to be approved MSC could start sailing again as early as mid August. Initial plans by MSC if approved will have them sailing in the Mediterranean, using two of their ships. However it will also not qualify US Citizens on these sailings until Italy & or the EU approve US Citizens to enter the country again.

Now to the nitty gritty details of MSC's policy:

Based on European CDC guidelines, select countries guests will be required to take a molecular RT-PCR test within 72 hours of embarkation. The rest of the passengers will be required to have a swab test performed by a fully equipped testing facility at the cruise terminal. This on-site testing will be rapid with results in 30 minutes. Guests will be allowed to check in only after clearing a COVID-19 test, a temperature check and a health questionnaire.

Crew will also be tested numerous times. First before leaving their homes, Then prior to embarkation & Then again following five days of quarantine onboard. They will also be tested on a monthly basis.

If a passenger tests positive, has a temperature or shows symptoms, he or she will be denied boarding. However, the MSC COVID-19 Protection Plan will ensure a full cruise refund. Furthermore, once onboard, guests and crew will be screened for fevers each day.

MSC will also reduce venue capacities by up to 50% and enforce social distancing on the ship and on land. Only when physical distancing is not possible, including during elevator rides, will guests be required to wear masks onboard. Face coverings will always be required during shore excursions, and the only available tour options will be sanctioned by the cruise line to ensure safety off the ship.

Additionally, cleaning onboard ships will be enhanced to hospital-grade levels, and all air will be completely fresh and sanitized with UV-C light. There will be more than 100 hand sanitizing stations strategically placed throughout ships, including at restaurants, where all food delivery will be fully served to start. [Ok question...this sounds great sure but how the hell do you guarantee all air will be fresh and sanitized?, lol]

The medical facility will be open at all hours, and it will be outfitted with onboard testing machines. Passengers with symptoms will receive free treatment, and 10% of cabins will be set aside for isolation purposes (should it be needed). MSC is also establishing a new Health Protocol Compliance Officer.

Taking technology a step further, the MSC for Me wristband will facilitate proximity and contact tracing, as well as touch-free transactions.

Bravo to MSC for being the first in the market to take these steps and bring back cruising in Europe. Even though this needs to be approved by Italy first before it is put into action. It is a look at what could be to come by major lines such as RCCL, NCL & Carnival Brands. While this will only take place on two ships to begin with and only in the Mediterranean, it's successful implementation could mean MSC brings more ships into the mix, as well as reinstate cruising in additional destinations with these protocols in place. Also with this testing implemented at the cruise terminals, it means other cruise lines should be able to jump on this and be included as well in the near future.

It is likely these cruises will embark from only Italian ports for starters, because if it requires Italy's approve that means the testing is to be done at the cruise terminal must be in Italy.

So that brings embarkation cruise ports such as Rome, Naples, Venice, Genoa & Bari.

This is good news overall and a positive step in right direction, and I feel the actions MSC is ready to take is exactly what is called for to bring back the cruise industry in 2021. I say 2021, because most major lines have called it a year for 2020. While Europe is still in its cruise season until October, being the Euro cruise season is done in 2 months it makes sense to call it a year for the big guys. Every destination has its cruise season and once the season is over, there are not usually any frequent cruises in those destinations. Unless it could be a year round destination such as Hawaii & South Pacific.

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Derek Schemonitz

Avenue Two Travel

Luxury Travel Advisor