After months with ships languishing in harbor because of COVID-19, some cruises have resumed in Italy with new safety protocols on board. MSC Cruises was the first to return to the Mediterranean with its MSC Grandiosa cruise liner and Costa Cruises followed Sunday when its Costa Deliziosa set sail for a week-long cruise in Italy from the northern town of Trieste.
COVID-19 has seriously affected the cruising industry but gradually its operations are restarting in Italy with passengers booking cruises that have a series of new safety protocols in place. The Italian government gave the green light to cruising companies to resume their sailings last month.
However, as the numbers of coronavirus infections have resumed their upward trend in Italy, after having been low during the summer, there are concerns in the cruising industry about how long the ships will continue to sail. MSC Grandiosa was the first large ship to set sail from the port of Genoa in August with around 2,500 passengers and staff on board, no longer at full capacity.
Testing for COVID-19 was mandatory for everyone on the ship before departure.
Posters now explain the health requirements, including hand-sanitizing and temperature checks. New safety measures on the ships also require wearing protective masks in all indoor spaces and outdoors where social distancing is not possible.
Customers boarding the ship expressed satisfaction with the strict protocols.
This customer said the rules are very clear and cruise staff ensure that they are respected. He expressed the hope that it will continue to be this way because it is a security guarantee for everyone.
Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC cruises explained that the company’s objective is providing a safe environment on board, which will build customer confidence.
Onorato said passengers are no longer allowed to disembark independently from the ships for visits ashore but only for protected organized excursions where buses have been previously sanitized, and drivers and guides tested the morning the ship arrives.
He added that none of the services on board have been cancelled, just adapted, like buffets which are now being served, just like in hotels in Italy. He also said there are some 250 empty cabins available if guests need to self-isolate.
Like MSC, Costa Cruises also resumed cruising on Sunday, with initial sailings only for Italian nationals. Management of cruising companies all cite the great sense of responsibility they have towards their guests in their efforts to resume and continue to operate their cruises.
Italy was one of the first countries in the world to resume cruising but TUI Cruises and Hapag Lloyd also recently concluded inaugural cruises with no city stop-overs from Hamburg.
Some of the cruises that have resumed sailing have experienced COVID scares. Dozens of passengers and crew on Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen tested positive recently for COVID-19, forcing the company to cancel any further sailings. Many of the big names in the cruising world, including Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line, have cancelled all or nearly all their sailings until the end of October if not later.
The financial impact and job losses on the industry is expected to be huge.