A look at MSC Cruises’ new health and safety protocol

MSC Cruises has revealed it highly anticipated new health and safety protocol. The new protocol was designed to protect the health and safety of guests, crew as well as the local communities in view of the company’s restart of operations in the Mediterranean.

Since MSC Cruises paused its operations, the Italian cruise line has been working closely with the different authorities in the countries they sail to in order to offer guests the safest possible holiday.. A dedicated task force 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 worked to encompass every aspect of the guest’s journey from the moment of booking to embarkation, life on board and through to the return back home, whilst preserving the uniqueness of the guest experience.

The new comprehensive operating procedures build upon already stringent health and safety measures that have long been in place on board the cruise line’s ships. The new procedures include universal COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation, protected ashore visits at each destination and the introduction of a COVID Protection Plan for further peace of mind for guests.

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. So, whilst 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 re-opened their ports to cruising and 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 use of public transport or flights and have been planned in conjunction with the authorities.

MSC Cruises’ new health and safety operating protocol 

The new operating protocol is designed to prevent and mitigate the risk of transmission during an MSC Cruises holiday. 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 travelling from countries categorised 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, approx. 10 m² per person based on 70% overall capacity. Venue capacity will be reduced, activities will be modified to allow for smaller groups and guests should 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 lifts. The face masks will be provided daily to guests in the cabin 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 cabins 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 organised MSC Cruises excursion. This means that MSC Cruises can protect their health whilst ashore with excursions that will be delivered with the same high standards of health and safety on board. We will ensure that transfers are properly sanitised and that there is adequate space. Tour guides and drivers will also undergo health screening and will wear appropriate 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.

What to expext before going on board

From the moment a guest starts to plan and book to the moment they return home, MSC Cruises has assessed every touchpoint of their holiday to put in place the appropriate health and safety measures. Guests will be supported every step of the way with simple information, clear booking conditions, practical information and supporting technology to make the process smooth and seamless.

A redesigned embarkation procedure with digital check-in processes has been implemented to make the process more seamless and contactless with arrival timeslots to manage guest flow. The health and safety measures in the cruise terminal will meet the same high standards as those on board. Guests will undergo a COVID-19 swab test, a temperature check and an in-person check of the health questionnaire to ensure that a guest is healthy and eligible to cruise. If further checks are needed, these will be carried out by medical staff and if needed, and a further COVID-19 test could be carried out.

MSC Cruises is also introducing a new MSC COVID-19 Protection Plan to provide guests – who are resident in Schengen countries – with additional peace of mind for the summer cruises,. This will cover the guest if they become infected prior to their departure if they are not able to travel, during the cruise for medical expenses and after the cruise if the guest falls sick. In addition to this, guests should also choose their usual travel and health insurance cover.

What to expect on board

Guests will continue to enjoy the rich experiences that have been central to an MSC Cruises holiday including award-winning shows in the theatre, world-class dining, family activities, boutique shopping, engaging events and much more but with some changes and adaptations to ensure that their health and safety is protected.

Onboard activities and entertainment have been redesigned to enable smaller group sizes and guests should book in advance. A rich programme of activities will be available throughout the cruise including themed events, fun games, talent shows, fitness and dance and more.
Award winning children activities and family live game shows will be available each day. New spaces on board will be reserved for children and teenagers as the youth areas will operate at a reduced capacity. Parents on excursion can still leave children with the youth staff by making a reservation one day in advance. Lunch and dinner with the youth staff will still take place along with the most popular kids’ activities such as MasterChef At Sea Juniors, MSC Dance Crew, Cabin 12006 family game show & web series and the LEGO experience.
• MSC Cruises will continue to offer a wide choice of live entertainment around the ship. As the capacity of the theatre will be reduced to ensure responsible social distancing, the entertainment schedule will be adapted so all our guests can still enjoy a great variety of award-winning shows.
Restaurants, bars and lounges, will allow for social distancing and all meals and drinks will be served to guests at their table. The buffet restaurant will offer a new service concept and a new guest flow to ensure social distancing. Instead of self-service, the guests will select what they want, and the food will be plated and handed to them to take back to their table to ensure the highest level of health and hygiene measures are followed. For a contactless experience, guests will be able to access restaurant and bar menus from their personal mobile device by scanning a QR code.

What to expect in the ports of call

Ashore, 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. 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.

Guest-centric technology

MSC Cruises’ health and safety measures are supported by industry-leading guest technology to facilitate a contactless experience, to provide guests with important and relevant information as and when they need it. For guests on board both ships, the MSC for Me app will support and facilitate the new health and safety measures. The app can be used to book services as well as to manage their daily activities on board and source information.

Additionally, on board MSC Grandiosa every guest and crew member will be provided with a complimentary MSC for Me wristband, which facilitates contactless transactions around the ship as well as providing contact and proximity tracing.

A new Information Centre, accessible by telephone, will allow guests to call Guest Services for information, rather than having to go to the desk in person.

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