- MSC Cruises plans to resume sailing in the Mediterranean this month as the industry resumes following a months-long shutdown.
- At ports of call, however, visits ashore will only be allowed with company chaperones.
- The company says this will help ensure passengers are following health protocols to combat the coronavirus.
- As other ships resumed sailings in July, at least three have struggled to combat outbreaks onboard.
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You can cruise again – just don’t assume you’ll be able to go ashore.
Cruises have resumed in parts of the world where the coronavirus pandemic has been more-or-less contained, but the new voyages look vastly different than they did a year ago. And in some places like the United States, ships aren’t even welcome.
MSC Cruises, which will resume sailings in the Mediterranean as soon as August 16, said passengers will only be allowed to disembark on chaperoned visits at ports of call, instead of having free rein to move on and off the ship as they please.
“Guests will be able to enjoy the different destinations the ships visit, but this will be only as part of an organised MSC Cruises excursion that will be delivered with the same high standards of health and safety as on board,” the company said in a press release. “By taking this decision the Company is able to ensure that every aspect of the guest’s time ashore meets the appropriate standards of health and hygiene from ensuring that transfers are properly sanitised, that tour guides and drivers are wearing PPE, venues and sites to be visited are pre-screened through to ensuring there are reserved areas for MSC Cruises guests at attractions.”
On a conference call with reporters, executives said this was to ensure that passengers were following social distancing, mask wearing, and other hygiene rules while ashore
“We will make sure (they) are going only to certain places, and they are respecting the social distancing (and) the wearing of masks all the time in order to reduce the risk of getting the virus while in the ports,” CEO Gianni Onorato said, according to The Points Guy, which was on the call.
Not only will the move likely help limit any spread of the virus by passengers to unassuming cities where the ships stop, it will also help keep the highly contagious virus off of ships, where it has already created nightmares for the few cruises that marked the birth of the post-covid industry.
In the first few weeks of sailing this summer, outbreaks have thrown several voyages into chaos. On the MS Roald Amundsen, operated by Norway’s Hurtigruten, two cruises left officials scrambling to track down passengers after dozens of positive cases were reported aboard. Two German ships operated by AIDA and a ship in the South Pacific have also struggled with cases on board.
When cruising returns to the US – one of the biggest sources of customers for industry heavyweights like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Disney – passengers will be subjected to tests, and intense hygiene measures. Buffets are unlikely to return.
That may not deter the most ardent of cruise-obsessed vacationers, though.
A Harris Poll released March 31 found that while demand for cruises is expected to bounce back at a slower rate than other methods of travel, such as hotel and airline bookings, only 22% of respondents said it would take “a year or longer” before they’d get on a cruise again.
“A lot of people we speak to are really champing at the bit to return to cruising,” John Shapiro told Business Insider. He’s one of 18 cruise lovers that spoke to Business Insider about why they’re eager to return to the seas – even if it means sailing into a different kind of world.