MSC CRUISES TO TEMPORARILY PAUSE CRUISE OPERATION IN THE MEDITERRANEAN DUE TO JUST-ISSUED ITALIAN GOVERNMENT’S SEVERE RESTRICTIONS ON PEOPLE’S MOBILITY OVER THE UPCOMING HOLIDAY SEASON
Extensive restrictions across Italy make it effectively impossible for local and international guests to travel to and from any local embarkation ports
Three MSC Grandiosa sailings cancelled with restart set for 10 January 2021
Three MSC Magnifica voyages cancelled with restart now on 15 January 2021
Geneva, Switzerland, 4 December 2020 - MSC Cruises today said that it will temporarily pause the operation of MSC Grandiosa later this month and move to January the planned restart of MSC Magnifica as a result of new travel measures introduced by the Italian government for the Christmas and New Year period.
The new rules include extensive restrictions to people’s mobility across the entire country that will severely impact the ability of future guests - Italian residents, plus those from overseas - to reach any of the ships’ embarkation ports in Italy.
The Italian government has said it will completely tighten the movement of its residents between regions, cities and towns in its efforts to combat the pandemic ashore between 21 December, 2020 and 6 January, 2021, which will also restrict the ability of holidaymakers from abroad to travel to, through and from Italy.
This has caused the cancellation of three future planned voyages of MSC Grandiosa and three sailings of MSC Magnifica.
MSC Grandiosa will temporarily pause her current programme of 7-night voyage sailings on 20 December in Genoa, Italy and will resume her Western Mediterranean cruises on 10 January, 2021, also from Genoa.
MSC Magnifica, which was due to re-start 10-night voyages in the West and East Mediterranean on 18 December from Genoa, will now commence its sailing programme on 15 January, 2021 following the cancellation of three previous sailings.
MSC Cruises in January 2021 will welcome back guests on board MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica under the protection of its comprehensive health and safety protocol which during the last four months – when the pandemic ashore was at its most recent peak – proved to be effective for the protection of guests, crew as well as the communities its ships visit.
The Company’s industry-leading protocol has to date safely and responsibly hosted more than 30,000 guests since MSC Cruises became the first major line to resume operations following the global industry’s shutdown in March.
MSC Cruises health and safety protocol
MSC Cruises in mid-August became the first major cruise line to resume sailing following the global shutdown of the industry in March caused by the pandemic ashore.
MSC Grandiosa, the Company’s flagship, set sail on Sunday 16 August from Genoa in Italy with guests on board for the first of her 7-night voyages in the Western Mediterranean.
This was achieved following approvals from the relevant authorities in Italy, Malta and Greece of an industry-leading health and safety protocol designed to protect the wellbeing of all guests, crew and communities to be visited.
This industry-leading protocol, which was designed at the outset to adapt to a fluctuating health situation ashore, was recently strengthened in line with the current evolution of the pandemic in mainland Europe, with a series of enhanced rigorous measures.
The additional measures include the following:
• Additional on-board antigen testing for COVID-19 of all guests mid-way through their cruise which are on top of the existing pre-boarding universal testing for all guests;
• Frequency of testing of all crew during their time on board increased from twice-a-month to weekly, which is in addition to pre-boarding testing for all crew and other ongoing health monitoring measures;
• Increased frequency of on-board sanitation, in particular of public areas and high touch points;
• Tightening of the definition of close contact for tracing purposes, reducing the time that individuals are in contact from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.
The MSC Cruises protocol is based on nine key elements, many of which have been adopted by other cruise companies, the Cruise Lines Industry Association and international airlines and airports.
1. Testing of all guests at least twice per voyage
2. Testing of all crew at least three times before embarkation and weekly on board
3. Only protected shore excursions, as organised ‘social bubbles’
4. Ventilation with HVAC fresh air
5. Contingency response that does not burden local health infrastructures
6. Isolation space on board and tracking and tracing including close contacts
8. Physical distancing – aided by reduced capacity of the ship
9. And COVID-19 prevalence monitoring
MSC Cruises’ protocol with its newly activated measures continues to be managed by a cross-functional task force comprised of in-house experts in the areas of medical services, public health and sanitation, hotel services, heating and ventilation, air conditioning, shipboard engineering systems, Information Technology and logistics.
MSC Cruises originally also engaged world-renowned expert consultancy Aspen Medical to assist with the initial development of the Company’s protocol and procedures and the line continues to work closely with its Blue Ribbon COVID-19 Expert Group to support its work on an ongoing basis. The group includes:
• Professor Christakis Hadjichristodoulou, Professor of Hygiene and Epidemiology at the Faculty of Medicine as well as its Vice President, School of Health Sciences, University of Thessaly, Greece;
• Professor Stephan J. Harbarth, hospital epidemiologist, infectious diseases specialist and Head of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at the Geneva University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine;
• Doctor Ian Norton, specialist emergency physician with post graduate qualifications in surgery, international health and tropical medicine, currently Managing Director of Respond Global, formerly the head of the World Health Organization Emergency Medical Team Initiative programme from 2014 until January 2020.
The MSC Cruises industry-leading comprehensive health and safety protocol offers:
• Universal health screening of guests prior to embarkation that comprises three comprehensive steps: a temperature check, a health questionnaire and up to two COVID-19 swab tests (antigen and RT- PCR if required). For crew members, this includes: an initial test in their country of origin; a second test upon arrival at the cruise terminal; and a third decisive test upon completion of a mandatory isolation period prior to starting their duties on board a ship.
• Elevated sanitation and cleaning measures supported by the introduction of new sanitation and cleaning methods, and the use of hospital-grade disinfectant products.
• Social distancing enabled through the reduction of the overall capacity of guests on board, allowing for more public space per guest while on board (approx. 10 m² per person based on 70 per cent maximum allowed overall capacity on MSC Grandiosa.)
• Enhanced medical facilities and services with highly qualified professionally trained staff, the necessary equipment to test, evaluate and treat suspected COVID-19 patients and the availability of free treatment at the onboard 24/7 Medical Centre for any guest with symptoms. Dedicated isolation cabins are also available to enable effective isolation of any suspected cases and close contacts.
• Ongoing health monitoring conducted throughout the cruise. Guests and crew have their temperature checked daily either when they return from ashore or at dedicated stations around the ship to monitor the health status of every guest and crew member. Additionally, measures now include mid-cruise testing for guests and weekly for crew for the duration of their stay on board.
• Protected shore excursions: Guests only go ashore as part of organised MSC Cruises excursions in a social bubble, which maintains the same high standards of health and safety measures as they experience on board. This ensures, for example, that transfers are properly sanitised and that there is adequate space. Tour guides and drivers also undergo health screening, including testing, and wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
• A contingency response plan that is activated if a suspected case is identified, in close cooperation with the relevant national health authorities. The suspected case and close contacts all follow isolation measures and are disembarked according to local and national regulations.