MSC Cruises will return to service in the Mediterranean this month with two ships—MSC Grandiosa on August 16 and MSC Magnifica on August 29. Initially, cruise bookings will only be accepted for Schengen country residents for these seven-night cruises:
MSC Grandiosa, the cruise line's flagship, will offer seven-night cruises in the western Mediterranean calling at the Italian ports of Genoa, Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples and Palermo, as well as Valetta, Malta. MSC Magnifica will offer seven-night eastern Mediterranean cruises departing from the Italian ports of Bari and Trieste on the Adriatic Sea and calling at the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus (Athens). MSC Grandiosa will embark guests at Genoa, Italy and MSC Magnifica will embark guests at Bari, Italy.
MSC said these itineraries were designed according to the accessibility of the ports and the ability to reduce—when possible—the need for guests to use public transportation or flights.
The cruise company also cancelled all other Mediterranean cruises from August 16 through October 31, 2020 as well as all Asia cruises from September 10 through October 26.
U.S. Cruises Cancelled Through October 31
In addition, MSC Cruises announced the cancellation of all U.S. cruise departures through October 31, 2020, in line with Cruise Lines International Association's announcement last week that member lines will voluntarily extend the suspension of cruise operations through that date.
The line said it will restart operations from the U.S. when the time is right, following approval of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other relevant regional authorities.
Guests booked through MSC Cruises USA or affiliated U.S.-based travel advisors on Mediterranean sailings between August 16 and October 31, Caribbean sailings between October 1 and October 31 and impacted Asia cruises through October 26, will receive a 125 percent Future Cruise Credit of the original cruise fare to be used on a sailing on or before December 31, 2021.
Guests who prefer to receive a refund instead of a Future Cruise Credit can visit www.msccruises.com for more information on how to complete their request with an easy to use online form.
New Health and Safety Protocol
This announcement about the European re-start comes on the heels of MSC Cruises’ "reveal" last week about its new comprehensive health and safety protocols.
That plan has been approved by the authorities from all the countries that these two ships will visit on their itineraries. The ships will be the first to implement the new comprehensive health and safety protocol as they visit Mediterranean ports.
“During the pause in our operations, we focused on developing a comprehensive operating protocol that builds upon already stringent health and safety measures that have long been in place onboard our ships," said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman, MSC Cruises.
"We have worked closely with the relevant E.U.-level, national health and other authorities from the countries that MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica will call [at] along their Mediterranean itineraries...to ensure that local communities feel comfortable welcoming our guests.”
He also said the new procedures are designed to help keep passengers and crew safe: "The new procedures include universal COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation, protected ashore visits at each destination only with an MSC Cruises’ excursion as an added level of protection for our guests and the introduction of a 'COVID Protection Plan' for further peace of mind for our guests."
Gianni Onorato, CEO, MSC Cruises, said: “We are very pleased to be able to start welcoming back guests for full-experience cruise vacations this summer onboard two of our most popular ships—including our flagship MSC Grandiosa—and in the Mediterranean, the very region where our company’s roots are."
Beyond Summer 2020
Beyond the new summer Mediterranean itineraries announced today, MSC Cruises is following the evolution of the pandemic and says that a gradual introduction of other ships coming into service is possible during this same summer period.
During late fall and winter 2020-21, it said ships will offer guests itineraries across all the regions traditionally served by MSC Cruises in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, the Gulf, South Africa, South America and Asia.
Regarding those itineraries, Onorato concluded: “We will closely monitor updates and new guidelines at a global, European and national level and will continuously review and update our health and safety protocol to make sure that its measures reflect the most updated medical know-how and technology as it becomes available."
In addition, he also said the protocol used by the line needs to reflect the different phases in the evolution and spread of the virus, as well as social restrictions and how they change over time.
"To this end, with time, and in line with the development of the health situation ashore, we are hoping to be able to relax certain measures while continuing to ensure that the health and safety of everyone on board our ships remains our utmost priority" said Onorato. "At the same time, we will always make sure that our guests can enjoy and relax while on vacation onboard one of MSC Cruises ships, the way they always have – now including this summer.”