MSC opens on Europe

MSC Cruises’ Grandiosa departed Genoa, Italy, on Sunday on the line’s first cruise since its pandemic shutdown began.

The Grandiosa and the MSC Magnifica will be the only two ships sailing MSC’s summer season; the line has no announced plans to operate in North America. As part of a series of health and safety protocols, the ships will only be operating at 70% capacity and only open to people residing in Europe’s Schengen area.

The cruises are being watched closely as a handful of big-ship cruise operations get underway in Europe. Costa last week revealed plans to begin sailings in early September on two ships, and a handful of Germany-focused lines have started up. Small-ship lines such as Hurtigruten, Ponant and SeaDream have been cruising, too, although a few lines came under scrutiny in early August when passengers or crew tested positive for Covid-19.

MSC said the Grandiosa’s guests arrived at the cruise terminal in Genoa according to allocated time slots and followed its new screening procedures, which included a temperature check, medical review of a health questionnaire and a Covid-antigen swab test. And carry-on and checked luggage was sanitized.

The Grandiosa plans to take on passengers in Civitavecchia, Naples and Palermo, Italy, and it will call in Valletta, Malta, before returning to Genoa next Sunday. Passengers will only be allowed ashore as part of an organized shore excursion. For example, MSC said some of its guests were scheduled for shore excursions to Rome (via the call in Civitavecchia), traveling on sanitized transfers with social distancing in place.

MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato was on the Sunday sailing, and in a statement he said it was “a real pleasure” to be on the ship and to be able to welcome back guests.