Early Days For MSC Grandiosa's Med Cruise Indicate All Clear
MSC Grandiosa as she left the Genoa, Italy port on 16AUG.
MSC Grandiosa departed from a port in Genoa in Northern Italy on Sunday night, marking first Mediterranean cruise since the pandemic.
"So far, so good," is the current sentiment, as there have been no positive COVID tests onboard in the first two days of the sailing.
"I'm surprised that MSC continued with its plan given what was happening with Hurtigruten, SeaDream, and Paul Gauguin," one veteran cruise exec told Cruise Week. "Our fingers crossed that it is successful, because it will be challenging if one of the big ships has an outbreak. That will be a big setback.
"It will be huge if they can get through a cruise without any cases. I think that it will demonstrate that it's possible, which will excite the industry, excite the markets, and serve as a shining light of optimism."
The Depth of MSC's Protocols
While it's early yet in the actual first Med cruise back, there is a sense of cautious optimism surrounding Grandiosa's voyage.
A lot of this optimism stems from MSC's stringent protocols, which include everything from mandatory Covid testing for every passenger before embarking and disembarking to only allowing crew to leave the ship on shore-excursion-like outings.
MSC leadership says temperature checks alone were not going to put cruise ships in a position to smoothly run a cruise operation and that they therefore foresaw the need for actual Covid tests. To this end, they purchased testing equipment months ago.
MSC also had to make arrangements for quarantining passengers and crew who test positive, setting up COVID facilities in every port of call.
"Say that you have one guest—or one crew member—who tests positive, that person will be disembarked and put in a facility that is dedicated to this type of patient," said the source.
If something does happen, MSC says that it is prepared: "We have a number of cabins in a specific section of the ship that can be used, if ever needed, to isolate guests or crew until the ship reaches the next port where we have the dedicated ashore facilities.
While a case or two here and there would not spell the premature end of return-to-cruise, a huge outbreak might, says Cruise Week. Nonetheless, the mood at MSC and around the industry is hopeful.