MSC Cruises has unveiled its plans for health and safety measures on cruise holidays amidst the coronavirus pandemic, giving passengers an insight into what future sailings could look like.
The cruise line set up a dedicated task force to work with medical experts and authorities, in a bid to set up new protocols for passengers and crew members.
The new measures come as MSC Cruises looks to potentially re-start operations in the Mediterranean onboard two ships; MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica.
The cruise line said it will initially only welcome guests who are residents in Schengen countries.
It’s worth noting that at the time of writing, the Foreign Office advises Brits against all cruise ship travel. You can check the latest FCO advice on cruises for more information.
So, what could cruises look like moving forward amidst the pandemic? We take a look at some of the measures MSC Cruises is proposing…
MSC’s health and safety measures begin prior to embarkation, with universal health screening of guests.
These screenings will include a temperature check, a health questionnaire, and a Covid-19 swab test. Depending on the results, guests may be subject to a second screening or test.
Any guest who tests positive or displays symptoms will be denied boarding.
All crew members will also be tested for Covid-19 prior to embarkation, and regularly during their contract.
It’s also worth noting that guests travelling from countries categorised as ‘high risk’ will be required to take a molecular RT-PCR test, 72 hours prior to joining the ship.
The embarkation procedure has also been redesigned to allow for digital check-in, including arrival timeslots to manage the flow of guests.
The cruise line plans to introduce new cleaning methods which include using “hospital-grade disinfectant products”. It will also focus on “the sanitation of the air on board with UV-C light technology that kills 99.97% of microbes”.
Throughout the cruise, guests and crew will have their temperature checked daily at dedicated stations around the ship.
On-board medical facilities and services will also be enhanced including necessary equipment for testing and caring for suspected Covid-19 patients. There will be free treatment on board for guests with symptoms, as well as dedicated isolation cabins for suspected cases.
There is also a new contigency response plan if a suspected case is identified. A suspected case and close contacts will follow isolation measures and may be disembarked according to local and national regulations.
In a bid to allow for as much social distancing as possible on board, the cruise line is looking to reduce the capacity of guests to 70 per cent.
Venue capacity will be reduced, and activities will be modified to allow for smaller groups.
While live shows and entertainment will still take place, guests will need to pre-book services and activities so that crew can manage numbers. (The entertainment schedules are being adapted accordingly).
The cruise line said that where social distancing is not possible, for example in lifts, guests will be asked to wear a face mask. Masks will be provided daily to guests in their cabin, and there will be others available around the ship.
Food and drink
Restaurants, bars and lounges will be set up for social distancing, while meals and drinks will be served to guests at their table. The buffet restaurant won’t be self-service, but guests can choose the food they want, which will be plated and handed to them to take back to their table.
(Guests can also scan a QR code on their mobiles to see restaurant and bar menus).
Guests will be able to explore destinations – but only as part of an organised MSC Cruises excursion. This will include sanitised transfers, tour guides and drivers wearing PPE, and visits to sites/venues which have been pre-screened and offer reserved areas for the passengers.
When returning to the ship, passengers will have their temperatures checked before boarding.
Covid Protection Plan
The cruise line is launching a new Covid Protection Plan, which means that guests are covered if they become infected with Covid-19, whether this is prior to their departure meaning they can’t travel, medical expenses if the infection happens during the cruise, or cover if they fall sick after the cruise.