MSC Cruises has extended its pause on operations until July 31.

UK and Irish guests affected by the additional cancellations will receive a Future Cruise Credit worth 125% of the value of their cancelled booking.

The brand said it was offering “maximum flexibility” for guests booked to travel between August 1 and October 31 through its Flexible Cruise Programme, which has been extended to include all October sailings. The policy allows guests to reschedule their cruise to a future departure date through to December 31 next year up to 48 hours before the original cruise departure, or 96-hours prior on Fly&Cruise packages.

Gianni Onorato, chief executive of MSC Cruises said it was a “difficult decision” to make but insisted the brand’s ships would return to service “only when the time is right, in phases and by region, and following guidance” from the relevant national and international health authorities.

The line said it was planning to resume operations for the winter 2020/21 season using a “phased” approach with the aim of having all ships operational for the start of next year’s summer season.

It said it would soon be announcing its planned health and safety protocols and measures for when sailings recommence.

The announcement comes as the brand reveals its deployment for the summer 2021 season which will see the full fleet of 19 ships in operations, including two vessels which are currently being built – MSC Virtuosa and MSC Seashore.

Onorato said: “While today we have taken the difficult decision to further extend the halt of operations of all our ships, it is important that we also look ahead as we know that our customers are dreaming of travel and are wanting to plan their holidays for next year. For this reason, we have now also confirmed our full summer programme for 2021.

“Shorter-term our ships will return to service only when the time is right, in phases and by region, and following guidance from the relevant national and international health and other regulatory authorities and the support of a new operating protocol especially focused on health and safety, which we will announce soon.

“This way, gradually, all of our ships will return to sea between then and the beginning of our summer 2021 season.”

The 2021 summer season will include mini-cruises of three or four-nights, standard seven-night long sailings and longer cruises of nine, 11 and 14-nights.

The 2021 summer programme for the MSC fleet is as follows:

  • MSC’s three Seaside-class ships – MSC Seaside, MSC Seaview and MSC Seashore – will be deployed in the Western Mediterranean. MSC Seashore had been due to launch in June next year, but due to the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of the shipyard, the launch date has been pushed back to August 1, 2021. MSC Fantasia will temporarily cover the sailings effected by the delay, with guests receiving a shipboard credit of €100.
  • MSC Lirica will sail from Venice next summer, with the additional option of embarkation in Trieste. Cruises will visit Zadar, Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia; Kotor in Montenegro; and Corfu in Greece.
  • In addition, MSC Musica, MSC Orchestra, MSC Opera and MSC Sinfonia will also offer seven-night cruises from Venice.
  • New ship MSC Virtuosa, which will launch on May 8, will spend its first summer season sailing on seven to 14-night cruises from the German port of Kiel with cruises alternating between the fjords and Baltic capitals. All itineraries will offer the chance to embark in Copenhagen, Denmark, as well as in Kiel.
  • MSC Splendida will also be based in Northern Europe
  • MSC Magnifica will homeport in Southampton and offer seven-night cruises to the Norwegian fjords, 14-night cruises to the Baltic capitals or the Mediterranean; 12-night sailings to the Canary Islands; and seven-night voyages to the ‘Northern Pearls’ of Hamburg, Germany; Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Zeebrugge, Belgium; and Le Havre, France.
  • MSC Preziosa will offer nine to 14-night cruises from Hamburg with sailings featuring Ireland, Iceland and Spitzbergen.
  • MSC Meraviglia will sail from Miami on seven-night sailings departing every Saturday. MSC Armonia will also depart from Miami, with shorter three and four-night cruises departing on Mondays and Fridays and calling at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.
  • MSC Divina will be based at Port Canaveral in Florida – a new homeport for the company – and will offer three, four and seven-night cruises departing on Sundays and Thursdays.