MSC Cruises flagship MSC Grandiosa on Sunday became the largest ship to sail the Meditteranean since the coronavirus shutdown of cruising operations and also the first major cruise journey in the world to test all passengers prior to embarkation for COVID-19.
Spectators cheered as the ship pulled out of the port of Genoa at 19:30 local time, while MSC tweeted “We are back”.
MSC Grandiosa, among the five largest in the world with a capacity of over 6,000 was believed to be carrying some 2,500 passengers and as such will be the largest experiment so far in returning to cruise operations and whether rapid pre-embarkation testing can point the way forward for the lifting of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to lift its no-sail order after months of shutdown.
Guests arrived according to a designated time slot to be screened as part of MSC’s, health and safety protocol, which includes a temperature check, medical review of a health questionnaire and an antigen COVID-19 swab test for every guest prior to boarding.
The company said in a press release that “after completing these steps and having received the results of the test while in the terminal, guests that were fit to travel then embarked the ship according to the new health and safety procedures, which includes sanitation of both hand and hold luggage.” MSC did not state whether anyone was denied boarding or tested positive for COVID-19.
With horns blaring and spectators cheering, this was the scene in Genoa tonight as MSC Grandiosa became the first big cruise ship to return to the Med (video by MSC Magnifica retail team, with permission) @MSC_Cruises_UK @MSCCruisesUSA @MSCCruises_PR @MSCTravelAgents pic.twitter.com/x9PtFwRZYJ
— Dave Monk (@shipmonk) August 16, 2020
MSC Grandiosa stringent health screening measures
The company said that over the past several weeks, all crew members have gone through similarly stringent health screening measures, which included 3 COVID-19 tests in various phases as well as a period of isolation before commencing their duties. Each crew member is to be regularly tested and monitored.
Passengers have been equipped with a wristband, which facilitates contactless options such as opening their cabins or making payments and will also enable staff to conduct contact tracing in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 infection.
La ripresa delle attività crocieristiche nel porto di Genova.
Nel tardo pomeriggio di ieri, domenica 16 agosto, è salpata MSC Grandiosa, la prima crociera nel Mediterraneo post emergenza Covid.
➡️https://t.co/bj6tSDB7eW#portsofgenoa #cruise #MSCGrandiosa #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/zyHSPdOs3x
— Ports of Genoa (@PortsofGenoa) August 17, 2020
MSC Cruises ships to return to service
Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO commented, “It is a real pleasure for me to be here and sail on board the first of our ships to return to service and to be able to welcome back our guests. 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. 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.”
Additional guests were due to embark Monday in Civitavecchia and later when the ship calls at Naples and Palermo, before heading to Valetta, Malta, and returning to Genoa on Sunday.
The MSC Magnifica is scheduled to sail on a seven-night East Mediterranean cruise from Bari on August 29.