MSC Cruises announced its new policies on Monday that it will implement on its first Mediterranean sailings, which provides insight into perhaps what Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines may do as well.
MSC has formed its own health panel, known as the COVID Expert Group, which is made up of highly qualified and internationally respected experts to inform and review our initiatives and ensure that the actions taken are appropriate, effective and informed by the best available science and health practices.
MSC designed its protocols that it claims goes 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.
These new protocols include universal COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation, protected ashore visits at each destination only with an MSC Cruises excursion as an added level of protection for guests and the introduction of a COVID Protection Plan for further peace of mind for guests.
The COVID Expert Group has come up with a series of new precautionary measures and response planning:
Before a cruise begins, all guests will undergo a universal health screen that is encompassed in three steps:
- Temperature check
- Health questionnaire
- COVID-19 swab test
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 traveling from countries categorized 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, approximately 10 m² (about 108 sq. ft) per person based on 70% overall capacity.
Venue capacity will be reduced, activities will be modified to allow for smaller groups and guests will be able to pre-book services and activities to manage guest numbers.
Onboard activities and entertainment have been redesigned to enable smaller group sizes and guests should book in advance. A rich program of activities will be available throughout the cruise including themed events, fun games, talent shows, fitness, dance and more.
Wide choice of live entertainment will continued to be offered around the ship. As the capacity of the theater 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.
MSC will ask guests to wear face masks when social distancing is not possible, such as in elevators.
Face masks will be provided daily to guests in their staterooms and will be available around the ship.
Children's 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 taking an 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 MSC Dance Crew, Cabin 12006 family game show & web series and the LEGO experience.
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.
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 staterooms will be available to enable isolation of any suspected cases and close contacts.
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 organized MSC Cruises’ excursion.
Tour guides and drivers will also undergo health screening and will wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
If a case is identified onboard, MSC will work 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.
MSC Cruises has introduced a new MSC COVID-19 Protection Plan to provide guests 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. The MSC COVID-19 Protection Plan is currently available only to guests from Schengen countries. In addition to this, guests should also choose their usual travel and health insurance coverage.