MSC Cruises says it is on track to resume operation in Japan from April 2021 having received a health and safety certification from the country’s official maritime classification society.
The certification of MSC Cruises’ health and safety protocol for Biosafety Management System (COVID-19) now paves the way for the line to open sales in December to local residents for cruises homeporting in Japan and start to work with ports in the country to prepare for the upcoming season.
MSC Bellissima, which debuted in 2019, will be deployed to Japan, homeporting in Yokohama where it will sail six- to nine-night voyages in April, May and June 2021. She is also scheduled to operate in the country during October and November 2021.
Health and safety operating protocols have been the number one priority for MSC Cruises since the outbreak of COVID-19, and the company has successfully operated multiple Mediterranean sailings since mid-Augusts, adhering to new guidelines.
This week LATTE spoke with Alessandro Guerreri, MSC Cruises’ Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand to get an update on how the European cruise line has maintained its operation during the pandemic, and what procedures are in place for the safety of guests and crew.
Alessandro, MSC Grandiosa has been sailing in the Mediterranean since 16 August. How is it going?
From the beginning our health and safety protocol was designed to be able to adapt to the evolution of the pandemic situation, to ensure the best protection possible for guests, crew and the communities we visit. Our protocol entails swabs for all cruise passengers before embarking and again mid-way through their cruise, daily temperature checks and the use of face masks. Social distancing is guaranteed by the reduced number of guests, a hi-tech bracelet tracks movements on board and protected shore excursions with MSC staff, who are tested on the morning of the shore excursion.
Over the past few weeks we have also activated additional measures;
- Testing of all crew during their time on board increased from twice-a-month to week
- Increased frequency of onboard sanitation, in particular public areas and high touch points
- Tightening of the definition of close contact for tracing purposes, from 15 to 10 minutes contact
To date, we have carried out 40 thousand tests, denying boarding to about 300 people. While we felt sorry for these guests, we had to deny boarding. It was imperative for us to guarantee a holiday in complete safety and relaxation for our guests onboard.
Can you tell us more about the temporary suspension of MSC Magnifica’s sailings in the Mediterranean?
Given the prevailing pandemic situation in France and Germany with significant travel restrictions affecting guests from these markets, we have had to temporarily suspend further sailings of MSC Magnifica. France and Germany are two key source markets for the ship’s 10-night voyages across the Eastern and Western Mediterranean calling destinations in Italy, Greece and Malta.
The temporary suspension will affect sailings through to 18 December.
How do you ensure the sanitation of MSC Grandiosa?
Sanitation takes place several times a day, particularly in high touch areas. From the air vents there is an aerosolization action with hydrogen peroxide: it is non-toxic and 99 percent biodegradable.
How do you ensure the crew crew are COVID free?
Before leaving home, the crew must pass the COVID test in their country. We then isolate them for 14 days and do another COVID test prior to embarkation. Every week they are tested for COVID and must stay onboard the ship at all times.
Is it profitable to be sailing at present?
It costs approximately $650,000 per sailing, but we are a diversified business, boosted by our cargo division. We are looking towards the future and working to highlight our robust health & safety protocols. This will ensure that we return to profit.
Why are you so optimistic?
The pandemic has meant that the cruise industry has worked as a whole to ensure the safety of guests and crew. When guests are ready to book again, they will be able to choose from latest generation ships, as many older ships have been retired earlier.
Will the pandemic change the design of your ships?
No, because our ships already have large public spaces. However, we have introduced materials on board that are easier to clean constantly to eliminate any bacteria. And with our hi-tech bracelet, guests can open their cabin or pay for drinks without using their hands.
Between now and 2029 you had plans to launch many ships, has this changed?
We have confirmed all the investments that will bring our fleet from 17 to 29 ships by 2029. Next year we plan to launch two ships, MSC Virtuosa and MSC Seashore.
MSC Cruises have recently released its 2023 World Cruise. How popular is this for the Australian market?
Regrettably we had to cancel the 2021 MSC World Cruise due to the continued closing of the majority of ports along its itinerary. A popular itinerary with a focus on locations in Asia, the 2023 MSC World Cruise will be the same itinerary as 2021. Commencing 5 January 2023 from Genoa in Italy, MSC Poesia will visit 53 destinations in 33 countries across six continents.
The 119-day voyage will cross the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, visit the tropical islands of the Caribbean and then sail through the Panama Canal. Next will be the west coast of Central America with calls in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico before heading to San Francisco.
The Pacific leg will visit Maui, Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.
The ship will then arrive in Japan during the cherry blossom season with calls at Kyoto and Tokyo. The sights and sounds of Asia continue with visits to Shanghai, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. Crossing the Indian Ocean to the Gulf region of the Middle East, MSC Poesia will then head home to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.