Welcome to the cruise of the future: Covid-19 swab tests, face masks and isolation cabins
Boarding a cruise ship will be different in a post-Covid-19 world.
MSC Cruises were one of the cruise companies to reveal changes to its operation following the coronavirus outbreak. CEO Gianni Onorato revealed the cruise company’s comprehensive health and safety protocol at a press conference in Italy this week.
The new protocols were developed to support the restart of operations in the Mediterranean, aimed to protect the health and safety of guests, crew as well as the local communities that the company’s ships will visit.
The new procedures include universal Covid-19 testing for guests and crew before embarkation, protected ashore visits at each destination and the introduction of a Covid Protection Plan.
The cruise company is awaiting final approvals before the MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica set sail. MSC Grandiosa will embark on a seven-night cruise in the Western Mediterranean while MSC Magnifica will serve the East Mediterranean.
For this initial phase of the restart of operations, the two MSC Cruises ships operating in the Mediterranean will only welcome guests who are residents in Schengen countries.
"With all of these measures in place, MSC Cruises aims to offer guests the safest possible holiday.
"MSC Cruises has worked to encompass every aspect of the guest’s journey from the moment of booking to embarkation, life onboard and through to the return back home, whilst preserving the uniqueness of the guest experience," said Onorato.
The new protocols meet the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) Guidance.
Here's how MSC Cruises hopes to offer their guests the safest holiday:
Universal health screenings
Guests will have to undergo universal health screenings before embarkation that comprises of three comprehensive steps, including a temperature check, a health questionnaire and a Covid-19 swab test. Depending on the screening results and according to the guest’s medical or travel history, a secondary health screening or testing will take place.
Any guest who tests positive or displays symptoms or temperature will be denied boarding. Following guidelines from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, guests travelling from countries categorised as high risk will be required to take a molecular RT-PCR test 72 hours before joining the ship. All crew members will be tested for Covid-19 before embarkation as well as regularly during their contract.
Elevated sanitation and cleaning measures
MSC will introduce 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 percent of microbes.
Passengers will need to social distance at all times. The cruise company will reduce the capacity of guests onboard. Venue capacity will be reduced, activities will be modified to allow for smaller groups and guests should pre-book services and activities to manage guest numbers.
When social distancing is not possible, guests will be asked to wear a face mask, for instance in the lifts. The face masks will be provided daily to guests in the cabin and will be available around the ship.
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 Centre for any guest with symptoms. Dedicated isolation cabins will be available to enable isolation of any suspected cases and close contacts.
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 organised MSC Cruises excursion.
A contingency response plan
The cruise company will activate it's contingency response plan if a suspected case is identified. The suspected case and close contacts will follow isolation measures and may be disembarked according to local and national regulations.
Onboard activities and entertainment
A rich programme of activities will be available throughout the cruise including themed events, fun games, talent shows, fitness and dance. All will require pre-booking.
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 mobile device by scanning a QR code.