MSC Plans to Expand Italy Cruises with Second Ship
Efforts are continuing seeking to restore more cruise operations before the traditionally busy summer travel season. MSC Cruises, which has been operating one of its cruise ships since August 2020, announced plans to expand operations in Italy while the cruise line also continues to seek permissions to resume its eastern Mediterranean cruises.
In a change of plans, the 153,000 gross ton MSC Seaside, which had been operating in North America since its introduction in December 2017, will reposition to the Mediterranean for the summer of 2021. The cruise ship, which begins sailing from Genoa on May 1 will become the line’s second cruise ship to return to service. It will introduce a unique itinerary with stops in Civitavecchia, which is the port from Rome, as well as a call in Malta. For the first time for an MSC cruise ship, they will also visit Syracuse on the island of Sicily and Taranto, a port at the southern tip of the Italian peninsular.
The resumption of cruises on the MSC Seaside will be in addition to the cruises currently operating aboard the MSC Grandiosa. That ship is currently sailing weekly cruises between the ports of Genoa, Civitavecchia, Naples, Palermo, and Malta. MSC extended this program to run through May 2021.
Both ships will continue to enforce a broad range of protocols for the safety of passengers and crew. Passengers are required to test negative for the coronavirus at the terminal before boarding and a second test conducted mid-week during the cruise. All of the crew is quarantined before joining the ship and has weekly COVID-19 tests. Programs for social distancing and mask-wearing are required on the ship and to go ashore in ports passengers must participate in the line’s organized shore excursions. MSC even reports that it is now performing swab testing for the tour guides and drivers of the vehicles used during the excursions.
Under agreement with the Italian authorities, capacity is limited onboard the cruise. The cruises currently available to residents from Schengen countries, as well as Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania.
MSC has also been trying to restart longer cruises sailing to the eastern Mediterranean aboard its MSC Magnifica. The line had said the 11-day cruises would start in mid-February but later delayed the program saying they planned for the ship to be in service by Easter.
Citing the continuing travel restrictions and unavailability of ports, MSC said that it was also canceling April cruises planned for the eastern Mediterranean and its Northern European itineraries. Also, the western Mediterranean cruises, as well as Caribbean cruises, are canceled for April and May.
MSC’s efforts to expand its operations comes as Royal Caribbean International also announced plans to start its first cruises in the Mediterranean. Seeking to take advantage of Israel’s wide distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, Royal Caribbean announced plans to base its first cruise ship for weekly cruises from Israel to Greece and Cyprus. The company said all passengers would be required to have received their vaccines and that all crew members would also be vaccinated before the cruises begin in May.