MSC Cruises has seen “a very small number” of cases of Covid-19 onboard its ships since it resumed sailing in the Mediterranean last month.

It has also increased the frequency of testing crew and passengers because of the rising rates of infection across Europe.

Bud Darr, maritime policy and government affairs executive vice-president at MSC Cruises, said the outbreaks were dealt with safely under the cruise line’s established protocols.

“The main thing we took away from it is that everything was working the way it was supposed to,” he said during a panel discussion with Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley at the virtual Clia forum on Thursday (October 29).

“The authorities had a lot of confidence in working with us, as to how we managed that, and continue to keep everyone safe. But you have to expect that in this environment, you are going to have some appearance of Covid.”


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MSC Grandiosa is on its 11th week of sailing 70 itineraries around Italy and calling at Malta. Last week, cruises restarted on MSC Magnifica, also operating out of Italy, and calling at Malta and Greece.

“It’s still very gradual, modest, and taking it one step at a time,” Darr said.

The second wave of Covid-19 across Europe has prompted changes to the protocols, to make them slightly more “restrictive and protective”, he added.

“We’ve increased the frequency of testing for both guests and crew members…and changed some of the procedures regarding shore excursions and our shipboard staff.”

More tests have been added during the cruises, along with the pre-embarkation tests that were already required.

Passengers who did not comply with shore excursion rules have been told to leave and new protocols have been added to maintain the ‘bubble’ when guests are sightseeing in destinations.

“The changes are pretty technical and just procedural, about how our crew members interact with the shore excursion, so I think that’s invisible to the guests,” said Darr.

“We are still going to take a very hard line and we’ve had to do that. And we will continue to do that if the situation comes up again because we think it’s very important.

“It’s also important that the guests be reassured that we’re serious about what we’re doing.

“The guests have been kept safe and have given us really good feedback. We have been able to find a balance between providing that experience and providing a health and safety environment.”