MSC Cruises Announces Comprehensive Health & Safety Protocol
MSC Cruises’ CEO Gianni Onorato revealed the full details of the line’s comprehensive health and safety plan at a press conference held in Italy today. The protocol has been developed to support the resumption of cruise operations in the Mediterranean and designed to protect the health and safety of guests, crew, and the local communities that the company’s ships visit.
MSC has been working closely with the local authorities in the countries where their ships call, a dedicated task force, and leading medical experts to create a robust protocol with new operating procedures that go beyond the regional and national guidelines to set a new standard. RINA, the independent maritime certification corporation, has verified that the protocol meets the European Maritime Safety Agency Guidance, which incorporates additional health standards including those from the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action.
Restart With Mediterranean Itineraries
MSC is preparing for a potential restart this summer in the Mediterranean. While awaiting necessary final approvals, two of their ships are making preparations — MSC Grandiosa and Magnifica. Grandiosa will offer 7-night Western Mediterranean voyages, and Magnifica will serve the Eastern Mediterranean. Their actual departure dates will be determined soon. Planned itineraries include Greece and Malta where authorities have not only re-opened their ports to cruising, but also have approved the health and safety protocol to support MSC’s restart of operations.
For this initial phase of restart, these two ships for the current summer season will only welcome guests who are residents in the Schengen countries (a zone comprised of 26 countries in Europe that don’t have border control between each other). Their itineraries have been designed according to the accessibility of the ports, reducing — where possible — the need for guests to make use of public transport or flights. Those residing in countries who are unable to sail on these summer Mediterranean cruises will be contacted by the line with alternative vacation plan options.
In the United States, MSC Cruises’ ships will only return to service once the necessary approvals have been received from the relevant authorities, including the CDC, as well as across the countries where the ships will operate.
Health & Safety Protocol
Having set up a cross-functional task force comprised of experts in a variety of areas, the line has also engaged global healthcare provider Aspen Medical to further assist with the development of the standards and operating procedures. MSC also established a blue-ribbon COVID Expert Group — a panel of highly qualified and internationally respected experts to inform and review the line’s initiatives to ensure that they are appropriate and effective.
MSC Cruises’ new protocol includes the following measures:
- Universal health screening of guests prior to embarkation: a temperature check, health questionnaire, and a COVID-19 swab test. Depending on the screening results and the guest’s medical or travel history, a secondary health screening or testing will take place. Anyone who tests positive, displays symptoms, or has a fever will be denied boarding. Following guidelines from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, those traveling from countries categorized as high risk will be required to take a molecular RT-PCR test, to be done within 72 hours prior to embarkation day. All crew members will also be tested prior to embarkation as well as regularly during their contracts.
- Elevated onboard sanitation and cleaning measures with new cleaning methods, the use of hospital-grade disinfectant products, and the sanitation of air onboard with UV-C light technology that kills 99.97 percent of microbes.
- Social distancing will be enabled through the reduction of the overall capacity of passengers onboard. Venue capacity will be reduced, activities will be modified to allow for smaller groups, and guests will be able to pre-book services and activities to manage guest numbers in certain areas. When social distancing is not possible, for example in elevators, passengers will be asked to wear a face mask. Face masks will be provided daily to guests in their cabins and will also be available around the ship.
- Enhanced medical facilities and services with highly qualified staff trained, the necessary equipment to test, evaluate, and treat suspected COVID-19 patients. There will also be free treatment available at the Medical Center for any passenger with symptoms. Also, dedicated isolation staterooms will be available to enable isolation of any suspected cases and close contacts.
- Ongoing health monitoring will be conducted throughout the voyage. Passengers and crew will have their temperature checked daily at dedicated stations around the ship as well as upon returning from shore activities. During the first phase of operation once cruising resumes, guests will only go ashore as part of an organized MSC Cruises’ excursion. The line will ensure that transfers are properly sanitized and that there is adequate space for everyone. Tour guides and drivers will also undergo health screenings and wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
- A contingency response plan will be activated if a suspected case is identified, in close cooperation with the national health authorities. The suspected case and close contacts will follow isolation measures and may be disembarked according to local and national regulations.
Through the booking process all the way to the moment a guest returns home after a cruise, they will be supported by the cruise line with simple and practical information, clear booking conditions, and technology that makes the process smooth and seamless. MSC has introduced a new MSC COVID-19 Protection Plan, which will cover a guest if they become infected prior to their departure, if they are not able to travel, during the cruise for medical expenses, and after the voyage if they fall sick. Currently, this protection plan is only available to travelers from Schengen countries. In addition to this, the line recommends travelers should also choose their usual travel and health insurance coverage.
A redesigned embarkation procedure with digital check-in processes has been implemented to make the process more seamless and contactless, with arrival time slots to manage guest flow. Measures in the cruise terminal will meet the same standards as those onboard.
Passengers onboard both ships will be able to use the ‘MSC for Me’ app to book services, manage their daily activities, and source information. On MSC Grandiosa, every guest and crew member will be provided with a complimentary MSC for Me wristband which facilitates contactless transactions around the ship, as well as provides contact and proximity tracing. A new Information Center, accessible by phone, will allow passengers to call Guest Services for information, rather than having to go to the desk in person.
The Onboard Experience
Most onboard activities and entertainment have been redesigned to enable smaller group sizes, and will be available to book in advance. These activities include themed events, games, talent shows, fitness and dance classes, and more. The capacity of the theater will be reduced to allow for social distancing, which means that the entertainment schedule will be adapted to account for that.
A variety of children’s activities and live family game shows will be available each day. New spaces onboard will be reserved for kids and teens, since the youth areas will be operating at a reduced capacity. Parents taking an excursion can still leave kids with the youth staff by making a reservation one day in advance. Lunch and dinner with the youth staff will also still take place, along with popular activities like MSC Dance Crew, Cabin 12006 family game show & web series, and the LEGO experience.
Restaurants, bars, and lounges will also allow for social distancing, and all meals and drinks will be served to passengers at their table. Instead of self-service at the buffet, guests will select what they want and the food will be plated and handed to them to take back to their table. For a contactless experience, passengers can access restaurant and bar menus from their smartphones by scanning a QR code.
Join the discussion
What do you think of these protocols? Are you likely to sail MSC Cruises in the future?