A second major cruise line is about to resume sailings in the Mediterranean
A second major cruise line is about to test the waters for a resumption of cruising in the Mediterranean.
Europe-based Costa Cruises on Sunday will resume seven-night sailings out of Italy with a single ship, the 2,260-passenger Costa Deliziosa.
The 12-deck-high vessel will sail from Trieste, Italy, on an all-Italy itinerary featuring stops in Bari and Brindisi in Puglia; Corigliano-Rossano in Calabria; and Siracusa and Catania in Sicily.
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Costa is following in the wake of Europe-based MSC Cruises, which on Aug. 16 became the first major cruise line to restart sailings in the Mediterranean since the coronavirus caused the cruising industry to shut down in March.
Like Costa, MSC Cruises restarted operations with just a single vessel, the 4,842-passenger MSC Grandiosa. It's sailing out of Genoa on seven-night trips to ports in Italy and Malta.
For both lines, the sailings are a test of sorts to see if they can operate without major coronavirus-related incidents even as the illness continues to circulate in society without a vaccine.
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So far, MSC Grandiosa has recorded no cases of COVID-19 on board.
MSC Cruises has taken some extraordinary -- and innovative -- measures to keep the coronavirus off the ship. That includes rapidly testing every passenger for the illness as they arrive for their cruise. Those who test positive aren't allowed to board. MSC Grandiosa passengers also aren't allowed to get off in ports for touring on their own. They only can disembark as part of a cruise line-organized tour that's designed for social distancing.
The ship also is operating at a significantly reduced capacity, and with social distancing and mask-wearing rules in place.
The policies are designed to create a coronavirus-free "bubble" on board the ship. But the line also has prepared for the possibility of onboard cases of the illness by setting aside hundreds of cabins for crew and passenger isolation and arranging for medical help in advance from port towns.
Related: Has MSC Cruises cracked the code for a safe return of cruising?
Like MSC Cruises, Costa also plans to test passengers for COVID-19 on the day of departure before they board the ship and restrict their touring options in ports.
Costa says Costa Deliziosa will operate four of the seven-night Italy sailings between this weekend and Oct. 3. It hasn't said whether the ship will continue with the voyages beyond that date.
Assuming all goes well, a second, bigger Costa ship -- the 3,724-passenger Costa Diadema -- will begin sailings from Genoa, Italy, on Sept. 19. Like Costa Deliziosa, it'll only sail to Italian ports including Civitavecchia (the port for Rome), Naples, Palermo, Cagliari and La Spezia.
Both itineraries only are available to Italians for now. Costa ships normally draw a mix of Europeans as well as a handful of Americans. The company maintains a U.S. sales office.
The restart of cruising for Costa Cruises is a major milestone for its parent company, Carnival Corporation -- the world's largest cruise company. Costa Deliziosa will be the first of nearly 90 Carnival Corporation-operated ships to resume departures since March.
In addition to Costa, Carnival Corporation owns eight more major cruise brands including Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Seabourn and Cunard Line.
Related: This well-known cruise line just canceled every sailing through March
Cruising is restarting in Europe earlier than in North America because the COVID-19 case counts in Europe have fallen far more sharply in recent months than they have in North America. Italy has recorded fewer than 1,400 cases a day in recent days. The United States, on the other hand, still frequently records more than 40,000 cases a day.
In addition to the Mediterranean, cruising has resumed in a very limited way in Northern Europe with a handful of sailings out of Germany by German lines TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. There also have been a few cruises by small lines out of ports in Norway and France.
Quite a few small river cruise ships in Europe also have resumed sailings. But none of the vessels have been of the size or significance of MSC Grandiosa — the world’s seventh-biggest cruise ship.
More cruise ships may resume sailing in Europe in the coming weeks. TUI Cruises recently said it was preparing to start cruises from Greece with a single ship on Sept. 13. If it does, it would be the first international line to do so.
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