In what is bound to be viewed with keen interest, the first major cruise ship to set sail in the Mediterranean since the COVID-19 pandemic gripped Europe started out from the Italian city of Genoa on a seven-day voyage. MSC Grandiosa, which is operated by MSC Cruises, will stop at three Italian ports and Valletta in Malta, and another cruise on MSC Magnifica will take off from the Italian ports of Bari and Trieste on 29 August.

The interior of MSC Grandiosa
The interior of MSC Grandiosa © MSC Cruises

The two ships are the first to implement a new health and safety protocol that will see all passengers being tested for coronavirus before boarding, undergoing daily temperature checks, and completing a health questionnaire that will be medically reviewed. They will also arrive at the cruise terminal according to their allocated time slot. The new health and safety procedures include sanitation of both hand and hold luggage, and guests wearing a complimentary MSC for Me wristband. This provides them with contactless options on board, such as opening the cabin or making payments. It also helps to facilitate proximity and contact tracing, if needed.

MSC Grandiosa in the port of Genoa © MSC Cruises

All crew members undergo stringent health screening measures, which include three COVID-19 tests in various phases as well as a period of isolation before commencing their duties. Each crew member is regularly tested and their health monitored. MSC Grandiosa is carrying approximately 2500 passengers onboard, which is around 70% of its normal level, and visits ashore at each destination are only permitted with an MSC Cruises excursion. MSC Grandiosa will call at Genoa, Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples, Palermo and Valetta, and MSC Magnifica will depart from Bari and Trieste, calling at the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus.

For this initial phase of the restarting of operations, the two ships are only welcoming guests who are residents in Schengen countries. Their itineraries have been designed according to the accessibility of the ports, reducing where possible, the need for guests to use public transport or flights. The ships' protocol has been approved by the relevant national authorities from the countries they are calling to, and is designed to protect the health and safety of all passengers as well as ensuring that local communities feel comfortable welcoming them ashore.

“Our main goal during these last months has been to put in place the right measures that will protect the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit," says Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO. "But at the same time, we have worked to ensure that we are able to provide our guests with a cruise holiday that they can enjoy, and still experience all of the elements that they know and love from entertainment and activities on board through to protected ashore visits.”

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