Three cheers to Rafaela Aponte and husband Gianluigi, the Italian billionaires who own the global cruise and shipping line MSC. They are set to resume cruising with two departures from Italy this month.
The MSC Grandiosa is due to sail from Genoa on Monday, and MSC Magnifica from Bari at the end of the month. They will visit ports in Italy, Malta and Greece.
It’s a big, bold – some say a trifle reckless – gamble to try and breathe life into Italy’s $23.7 billion cruise industry, which supports over 50,000 jobs and is one of the country’s tourism mainstays.
Italy approved the restart of its cruise industry from August 15 as part of efforts to revive the economy.
The MSC ships will sail 70 per cent full – and with, in the phrase so beloved of cruise PRs everywhere, “an abundance of caution”.
The two MSC ships will be the first to implement a new comprehensive health and safety protocol that has been approved by the relevant national authorities from the countries that the ships will call along their East and West Mediterranean itineraries this summer.
Pierfrancesco Vago, the line’s executive chair, said: “The new procedures 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 added level of protection for our guests and the introduction of a COVID Protection Plan for further peace of mind for our guests.
“With all of these measures in place we aim to offer our guests the safest possible holiday.”
According to the cruise line: “MSC Cruises’ new operating protocol has been designed to protect the health and safety of guests, crew as well as the local communities that the Company’s ships visit. For this reason, it meets and goes beyond guidelines provided by key international and regional regulatory and technical bodies, as well as regulations set forth by the governments in the countries in which MSC Cruises ships operate.”
The two MSC Cruises ships operating in the Mediterranean for the current European summer season will only welcome guests who are residents in Schengen countries.
Will the new cruises be safe from COVID-19? Only time will tell…
Three cheers, too, for Viking chairman Torstein Hagen. This week, instead of continuing the long list of “pauses” other lines have continued to produce, he took the extraordinarily bold step of announcing his line won’t be sailing on either rivers or oceans until 2021.
Mr Hagen was the first cruise line to suspend all operations in the wake of COVID-19. So perhaps his forward thinking shouldn’t be a surprise.
His view: “We do not have to rush the decision to return to service, and we will only sail again when it is safe to do so. ”
In this new video message on Viking.TV, he also provides an update on the work Viking is doing to prepare for operating in these times as safely as possible and optimistically looks to the next year and beyond.
Only two cheers for Carnival Corporation, whose brands keep posting ever lengthening cruise dates – and selling cruises as if nothing is happening.
CEO Arnold Donald said the return would be patchy, with different start dates in regions where the pandemic was being kept at bay. And how right he was.
No-one is to blame for the differences. But it doesn’t make the job of the travelling public – or the long suffering agent community – any easier.
Holland America Line announced on Tuesday it will extend its suspension of cruises until mid-December due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
All HAL cruises sailing to the Caribbean, Mexico, Panama Canal, Pacific Coastal, South America, Antarctica, Hawaii, South Pacific, Australia and Asia are cancelled through December 15, 2020.
Will partner line Princess be following them?
“No news on that front from Princess,” said the line’s Australasia spokesperson.
Their website says: Due to the continued progression of COVID-19 and related decisions of various government, health authorities, and airlines regarding travel restrictions, Princess Cruises is extending its pause in cruise operations impacting the following voyages:
All cruises sailing in and out of Australia on Majestic Princess, Regal Princess, Sapphire Princess, Sea Princess, and Sun Princess through October 31, 2020
All sailings in Asia, Caribbean, California Coast, Hawaii, Mexico, Panama Canal, South America & Antarctica, Japan, and Tahiti/South Pacific through December 15, 2020.
P&O, another Carnival line’s website says: “In response to the continuing impact of the global health crisis, we have implemented a temporary pause of operations for all departures in Australia and New Zealand until 29 October 2020.”
Royal Caribbean, which is expecting an October start, wasn’t about to respond either.
“As you’re aware, Royal Caribbean Group has extended its suspension of sailings to include those departing on or before 31 October, excluding sailings from China and Australia,” said a spokesperson.
“Australia’s international cruise ship ban extends to 17 September 2020 and we will continue to respond to any confirmed travel revisions. “
Not much new information there.
Norwegian Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas and Oceania are paused until the end of October.
Luxury cruise line Ponant has already restarted operations with eight ships in France, Iceland and Tahiti with local cruise passengers.
The line has also parked two other ships, Le Soleal in Tahiti and Le Laperouse in New Caledonia, waiting for the greenlight from Australian and New Zealand authorities to cruise in the South Pacific again.
Meanwhile Coral Expeditions, the local line with Australian crews and Australian flagged ships, has been forced by ongoing border closures to cancel all sailings in the Kimberley and other destinations through until October 13th this year.
“We now plan to resume on October 14th with our new series of 7 night Great Barrier Reef Cruises” says commercial director Jeff Gillies.