MSC Cruises’ CEO Gianni Onorato revealed the full details of the Company’s comprehensive health and safety protocol that has been developed to support the restart of operations in the Mediterranean, designed to protect the health and safety of guests, crew as well as the local communities that the Company’s ships will visit.
MSC Cruises has been working closely with the different authorities in the countries where the Company’s ships will call, to develop a comprehensive protocol. A dedicated task force, with the input and support of leading external medical experts, developed a robust protocol with new MSC Cruises’ specific operating procedures that go beyond the actual regional and national guidelines and effectively set a new standard. Additionally, RINA, the independent maritime certification corporation, has verified that the protocol meets the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) Guidance, which incorporates additional health standards including those from the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action.
MSC Cruises has developed comprehensive operating procedures that build upon already stringent health and safety measures that have long been in place on board the Company’s ships. 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 guests and the introduction of a COVID Protection Plan for further peace of mind for guests. With all of these measures in place, MSC Cruises aims to offer guests the safest possible vacation.
MSC Cruises has worked to encompass every aspect of the guest’s journey from the moment of booking, embarkation and life on board through to disembarkation and the return home, while preserving the uniqueness of the guest experience.
Restart with Mediterranean Itineraries
MSC Cruises is preparing for a potential restart this summer in the Mediterranean which — in terms of the current development of the pandemic and its tourist attractions — is where the Company’s guests would want ships to be deployed. While awaiting the necessary final approvals, two MSC Cruises’ ships are making preparations – flagship MSC Grandiosa and popular ship MSC Magnifica. MSC Grandiosa will offer 7-night cruises in the Western Mediterranean and MSC Magnifica will serve the East Mediterranean. Their actual departure dates will be determined in accordance with the guidelines received by the relevant authorities. The itineraries that are planned include Greece and Malta where the authorities have not only re-opened their ports to cruising but also have approved the health and safety protocol to support MSC Cruises’ restart of operations.
For this initial phase of the restart of operations, the two MSC Cruises’ ships operating in the Mediterranean for the current summer season will initially only welcome guests who are residents in Schengen countries. Additionally, 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, and have been planned in conjunction with the authorities.
Guests residing in countries who are unable to sail on the summer Mediterranean cruises will be contacted by MSC Cruises with options for their vacation plans.
In the U.S., MSC Cruises’ ships will only return to service once the necessary approvals have been received from the relevant local and national authorities, including the CDC, as well as across the regions where the ships will operate.
MSC Cruises’ Comprehensive Health and Safety Operating Protocol Aims to Set a New Standard
Having set up a cross-functional task force comprised of in-house experts in the areas of Medical Services, Public Health and Sanitation, Hotel Services, HVAC and other Shipboard Engineering Systems, Information Technology and Logistics, MSC Cruises engaged leading global healthcare provider Aspen Medical to further assist with the development of the protocol and operating procedures. In addition, MSC Cruises has established a blue-ribbon COVID Expert Group – a panel of highly qualified and internationally respected experts to inform and review our initiatives and ensure that the actions taken are appropriate, effective and informed by the best available science and health practices.
Combining new data and research into COVID-19, an improved understanding of the virus and how it behaves with the latest technology in screening and protecting people from possible contagion, the new operating protocol is designed to prevent and mitigate the risk of transmission during an MSC Cruises’ vacation. It includes the following pillars in terms of precautionary measures and response planning:
- Universal health screening of guests prior to embarkation that comprises three comprehensive steps: a temperature check, a health questionnaire and a COVID-19 swab test. Depending on the screening results and according to the guest’s medical or travel history, a secondary health screening or testing will take place. Any guest who tests positive, displays symptoms or a temperature will be denied boarding. Following guidelines from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, guests 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 joining the ship. All crew members will be tested for COVID-19 prior to embarkation as well as regularly during their contract.
- Elevated sanitation and cleaning measures supported by the introduction of new cleaning methods, the use of hospital-grade disinfectant products and the sanitation of the air on board with UV-C light technology that kills 99.97% of microbes.
- Social distancing will be enabled through the reduction of the overall capacity of guests on board, allowing for more space for guests, approximately 10 m² (about 108 sq. ft) per person based on 70% overall capacity. 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. When social distancing is not possible, guests will be asked to wear a face mask, for instance in the elevators. Face masks will be provided daily to guests in their staterooms and will 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 and the availability of free treatment at the onboard Medical Center for any guest with symptoms. Dedicated isolation staterooms will be available to enable isolation of any suspected cases and close contacts.
- Ongoing health monitoring will be conducted throughout the cruise. Guests and crew will 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. During this initial phase of operations, as a further enhanced measure of protection and to avoid risks to the health of guests and their fellow cruisers, guests will only go ashore as part of an organized MSC Cruises’ excursion. This means that MSC Cruises can protect their health while ashore with excursions that will be delivered with the same high standards of health and safety as on board. We will ensure that transfers are properly sanitized and that there is adequate space. Tour guides and drivers will also undergo health screening and will wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
- 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.
Below you can see a video with a short presentation with MSC’s new hygiene standards