“Our protocols go beyond any recommendations that we have received from any government authorities in Europe,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, adding he hopes to have the final approvals to start cruising with two ships in the Mediterranean shortly.
The plan is to have the MSC Grandiosa offer seven-night cruises in the Western Mediterranean and the MSC Magnifica will serve the Eastern Mediterranean, with calls already booked into Italy, Greece and Malta. Both ships will operate under new health protocols.
The ships will be trimmed to 70 percent occupancy, allowing for 10 square meters of space per passenger. Empty staterooms will be available for isolation purposes, said Onorato, in an interview with Cruise industry News.
Asked whether MSC can generate profits at 70 percent occupancy, Onorato said: “Today we are making zero money … it’s important to give some proof that cruise ships can be a healthy bubble.”
Guests will require a COVID-19 test prior to boarding, meaning the embarkation day will be longer as all guests will get COVID-19 swab tests in the cruise terminal. All passengers will get a specific embarkation day time slot to arrive, staggering the turnaround day.
Crew will be tested in home countries, tested on arrival before boarding, and then will quarantine for 14 days after boarding. They will be granted shore leave in MSC-organized excursions.
“Then there is training, the crew will be trained to perform duties with new protocols ranging from masks to social distancing, and more,” Onorato said.
MSC will be the first of the major cruise operators to return with port calls, but will control the entire experience. Guests will only be allowed to disembark if they are on MSC-organized shore excursions, which Onorato said would be economically priced.
Onboard, public venue capacity will be reduced to 50 percent, while self-service food is gone. Face masks will be provided daily to guests in their cabins and will be available around the ship.
Restaurants, bars and lounges, will allow for social distancing and all meals and drinks will be served to guests at their table.
Following two ships starting on week-long cruises, Onorato said a more extended restart would follow, most likely in the Mediterranean first with openings of more countries. Spain and Italy are expected to be next.