MSC Cruises has become the latest cruise line to notify guests about possible last-minute changes to cruise itineraries and experiences. While there have been no major cancellations for the line in recent days, MSC Cruises is communicating the fluid situation and working to keep guests apprised of possible disruptions to upcoming sailings.
COVID-19 Cases Aboard MSC Ships
In a letter emailed to booked guests and travel partners, MSC Cruises has noted the presence of limited COVID-19 cases onboard its ships, as well as how such cases are handled on board. According to the letter:
“We immediately isolate the positive cases and their close contacts in the section of the ship that is dedicated for this and is separate from the rest of the ship, all in Balcony Staterooms. The majority who test positive are asymptomatic and those who are symptomatic typically have only mild symptoms. COVID-19 positive guests receive assistance to return home upon the ship’s arrival and the impacted crew are disembarked and well taken care of ashore.”
MSC Cruises requires that all guests ages 12 and above must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and submit a negative test before boarding. All children 2 years and older must also submit a negative test.
All crew MSC crew members are fully vaccinated and regularly tested.
No Upcoming Cruises Cancelled
Guests receiving the letter, which was sent January 12, were assured that “your cruise will continue as planned with no delay to your assigned embarkation time.”
While other cruise lines have recently been cancelling multiple sailings either due to rising COVID-19 cases or staffing issues related to crew cases, MSC Cruises has not yet cancelled any upcoming sailings.
The line did cancel a number of sailings aboard the MSC Magnifica in northern Europe in December and early January, not due to COVID-19 cases, but due to changing port protocols which made those sailings impractical to operate. That ship’s itineraries are due to restart January 14.
MSC Seashore was also denied entry to Ocean Cay, the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas, in late December, due to positive cases onboard. Also at the end of December, MSC Divina adjusted its itinerary several times due to port of call requirements and cases onboard, though some of those adjustments were voluntary.
The letter does warn booked passengers that “a number of Caribbean destinations are reviewing their protocols, and in some cases, not clearing cruise ships for entry. This may cause changes to your itinerary with very short notice. While we will do our best to preserve the original itinerary, if a change is necessary, we will notify you immediately.”
The letter goes on to remind guests of MSC Cruises’ Cruise with Confidence policy, which permits booking changes up to 48 hours before sailing without penalties. The line is also offering assistance for anyone who wishes to rebook their vacation to a later date.
Passengers sailing on upcoming voyages can also take reassurance from the line’s peace of mind policy, which states that should a passenger test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days prior to or during a cruise, they and their traveling party will receive a full or prorated refund for their vacation. If required, assistance is also available for onboard medical care and land-based quarantine arrangements.
The letter also reminds guests of onboard health and safety protocols, including the requirement to wear masks indoors at all times unless seated while eating or drinking and to maintain physical distancing of 6 feet or more with people outside of one’s social bubble.
While the line is not suggesting that onboard activities and experiences may be impacted, such disruptions are likely for all cruise lines at this time. MSC’s onboard protocols do include smaller group size activities and entertainment to encourage social distancing, reduced capacity in show theaters, more frequent cleaning and sanitizing of public areas and deck equipment, and adapted serving processes in restaurants and bars to minimize contacts.
Overall, the communication from MSC Cruises is positive, reassuring guests of the line’s ongoing commitment not only to health and safety, but to providing a pleasant and enjoyable cruise experience for all passengers in these unpredictable times.