2 MSC Cruises to Resume Sailing in Europe Next Week While Princess Cruises Halts Asia Voyages

The cruise industry continues to respond to COVID-19 with various itinerary adjustments and precautions in place.

two MSC Cruises cruise ships in the ocean
Photo: MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises plans to set sail next week along the Mediterranean with a new set of rules when it comes to its highly anticipated excursions.

The upcoming sailings will first take off with the MSC Grandiosa on Aug. 16, with ports including Genoa, Civitavecchia, and Naples in Italy, according to the cruise line. Then on Aug. 29, the MSC Magnifica will set sail for the Eastern Mediterranean, stopping in Bari and Trieste before heading on to Corfu, Katakolon, and Piraeus in Greece.

The cruises will only be open to residents of the Schengen area in Europe.

“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 on board our ships,” the executive chairman of MSC Cruises, Pierfrancesco Vago, said in a statement. “We have worked closely with the relevant EU-level, national health and other authorities from the countries that MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica will call along their Mediterranean itineraries to develop a comprehensive set of procedures designed to protect the health and safety of all passengers on board our ships as well as ashore to ensure that local communities feel comfortable welcoming our guests.”

During boarding, guests will be subject to a temperature check and COVID-19 swab, the company detailed, and capacity is limited to 70 percent. Once on board, passengers will be asked to wear face masks when social distancing isn’t possible, like in elevators, and temperature checks will be repeated daily.

Passengers who want to leave the ship and check out a port can do so, but only if the trip an organized MSC Cruises excursion, according to the cruise line.

The decision comes as large ships in Germany have resumed sailings. It also follows the news of outbreaks of COVID-19 on two different cruise lines in Norway: Norwegian expedition line Hurtigruten suspended most of its operations after dozens of crew members and several passengers became sick following two sailings on one of its ships; and the SeaDream Yacht Club was forced to quarantine its passengers and crew after a passenger from a previous sailing tested positive for the virus.

While sailings in Europe are resuming, Princess Cruises has decided to put its sailings in Asia on hold, canceling journeys aboard its Diamond Princess ship from October 2021 to April 2022, a company spokeswoman confirmed to Travel + Leisure. The ship will instead be redeployed for a season somewhere else in the world, but it wasn’t immediately clear where that would be.

The Diamond Princess became one of the first ships to experience a COVID-19-related quarantine in February after many people became ill with the virus and several people died in Tokyo.

When it comes to cruising in America, however, it will be awhile. Last week, the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents major cruise lines around the world, said its members have voluntarily suspended U.S. sailings through at least Oct. 31. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended its “No-Sail Order” until October.

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