MSC Grandiosa Sets Sail In Italy --- But Cruise Industry Remain Cautious

Even as coronavirus cases are again rising in Italy, the MSC Grandiosa became the first major cruise ship to resume sailing the Mediterranean yesterday when it left port in Genoa, Italy.

“Sailing with trimmed occupancy and 10% of staterooms set aside for isolation, MSC’s flagship will visit Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples, Palermo and Valletta. MSC  becomes the third big-ship line to restart operations, following TUI Cruises, which restarted from Germany in July, and Dream Cruises, sailing in Taiwan,” Cruise Industry News reports.

“In addition, MSC clarified it will only restart operations in the U.S. when the time is right, following approval by the CDC and other relevant authorities across the region in observance of their requirements and guidelines,” CIN adds. 



Why does this matter? 

“Cruise ships were the source of some of the first coronavirus outbreaks in the world due to the high population density and close quarters that passengers live in. Over 600 passengers on the Diamond Princess were infected with the virus in February,” Rashaan Ayesh answers  for Axios.

“Don’t expect a widespread resumption of cruising anytime soon. Executives at some of the world’s biggest cruise companies in recent days have suggested it could be many months before cruising starts back up in a major way,” Gene Sloan posts  on The Points Guy.

“‘We will not rush to return to service,’ Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO Richard Fain told Wall Street analysts Monday, noting the company still is working through new COVID-era health protocols to implement when cruising resumes,” Sloan continues.

“The crisis forced operators to ground their ships and also led to accusations that they botched the handling of the epidemic in its early stages. Cruise lines are hoping that tighter protocols will allow them to control the still-lingering threat of coronavirus aboard its ships while still offering travelers a cruise experience that does not disappoint,” Agence France-Presse’s Francesco Gillioli and Alexandria Sage write  for Yahoo News.

“Earlier in the day, arriving passengers preparing to check in before taking a required coronavirus blood test inside the terminal told AFP they were not concerned about the virus. Some said they believed cruises were now safer than other vacation options,” they add.

The MSC Grandiosa will be operating “at around 70% of its normal operations, with approximately 2,500 passengers onboard, to ensure safety protocols,” the BBC reports.  

The Centers for Disease Control, meanwhile, has received about 2,500 comments  since it began soliciting public feedback on the resumption of passenger operations and other cruise industry issues nearly a month ago.

“Most of the comments seem to be in favor of cruises returning to service, and suggest new policies to keep guests safe. … Many guests have also urged a more realistic approach to cruises that cannot eliminate all risk,” writes  Matt Hochberg on the Royal Caribbean blog, citing examples including this one by Julie Ozsoy: “Truthfully the cruise ships are far more cleaner than Walmart. Please allow them to reopen even if it is at reduced capacity.”

Some people “urged more caution in any kind of return,” Hochberg points out. “In my opinion, cruise ships are a COVID-19 petri dish and should not be allowed to operate until a vaccine is developed or the virus infection rate significantly diminishes,” Greg Walker maintains. 

But “then there are a lot of comments from people who believe the CDC have overstepped their authority,” Hochberg continues.

“I have worked as a federal employee for over 20 years in HealthCare and am appalled by your total abuse of power,” writes Robin Divers. Then again, Syreeta Garbarini feels “the government/CDC has done their job of protecting and informing citizens.”

Indeed, it’s a veritable roller coaster ride of responses. 

Speaking of roller coasters, Carnival Cruise Line has created a video preview  of the Bolt roller coaster that will perch atop its new liner, the Mardi Gras. In it, cruise director Matt Mitcham visits the factory in Munich, Germany where the ride was designed and built.

“Proving himself a good sport, Mitcham is seen donning a very cool Carnival Cruise Line/Bolt jacket (which we can only hope is for sale in the ship’s gift shop!) and preparing to take a test ride, only for… well, you’ll have to watch the video to find out what happens next,” writes  Doug Parker for his Cruise Radio blog.

That’s a nice buildup but you’ll find the actual experience anticlimatic. The ride doesn’t happen. 

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