One of the few companies that did not require vaccination for all guests onboard all of its ships has changed course. MSC Cruises, the Switzerland-based privately-owned cruise line which operates cruise ships worldwide, now requires a vaccine for all guests aged 12- and up.
Cruises from the United States, South America, Asia, and the Middle East already had this mandate, but it has now been expanded to include cruises sailing in Europe.
MSC cruises implemented a new mandate that all guests onboard all cruises must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The only exception to the new mandate is for kids younger than 12 years of age, as they are not eligible yet.
It is a significant change for the cruise line that announced it would still accept unvaccinated guests on European cruises only last month. The change affects two of its vessels sailing the Mediterranean this winter, MSC Grandiosa and MSC Fantasia.
Since August of last year, MSC Cruises has been operational in the Mediterranean with its own set of health regulations that have worked well for the cruise line. A strict regime of testing and monitoring has been reasonably successful for the Swiss cruise line. However, mounting cases in Europe, especially those that have not been fully vaccinated, have prompted the company to change course.
Gianni Onorato, CEO, MSC Cruises: “This approach has reassured our guests, our crew and the destinations we visit with our ships and we saw last winter with our sailings in the Mediterranean that even during a new peak of the pandemic ashore we were able to adapt our health and safety measures appropriately and continue to offer the highest level of protection to our guests and crew. This is the case once more as some countries in Europe are seeing an increase in infection rates ashore and to ensure the wellbeing of those on board our ships and at the communities they call, our approach again demonstrates that health and safety is our number one priority.”
For the first time since August, the company now requires vaccinations onboard all of its ships. Guests are fully vaccinated if they receive their final shot of a WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine 14 days before sailing. Besides being fully vaccinated, guests must also still take a PCR-RT or Antigen test between 48 and 72 hours before sailing, depending on the departure port and country.
The new rules will be in place for all voyages departing from December 4. If guests have not been vaccinated yet, they do have the opportunity to either postpone or cancel their voyage and request a refund.
For all bookings for MSC cruises in the Mediterranean, guests must also purchase a Travel Protection Plan with coverage for COVID-19 through their country of residence. Guests can opt to buy this from MSC.
If guests fail to provide proof of any of the three measures in place, such as the vaccine mandate, the testing requirement, and the mandatory travel protection, they will be denied boarding at the terminal.
The requirements for cruises in the United States onboard the cruise line’s flagship MSC Seashore, and MSC Meraviglia and MSC Divina, all sailing from Florida, remain unchanged. Here, guests must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken at least 48 hours before sailing.