Family kicked off first Mediterranean cruise after violating new health protocols
A family traveling on the first major cruise ship to resume sailings in the Mediterranean since the coronavirus shutdown began has been kicked off the vessel after violating new health protocols.
The unnamed passengers on the MSC Cruises flagship MSC Grandiosa were on a cruise ship-sponsored shore excursion on Tuesday in Naples, Italy, when they separated from the group to explore the city on their own, according to the line.
Under the line's new coronavirus-related health and safety rules, passengers are not allowed to get off in ports unless they on an official, MSC Cruises-organized shore excursion with a guide, and they must be accompanied at all times. They are not allowed to stray from the group.
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The rule is designed to limit the amount of interaction that passengers have with locals in port towns, which MSC Cruises believes will help keep passengers from bringing COVID-19 back on board ships after port visits. The rule also is designed to protect port town residents from the risk of passengers spreading the illness while touring.
"In line with our health and safety protocol, developed to ensure health and wellbeing of our guests, crew and the communities we visit, we had to deny re-embarkation to a family who broke from their shore excursion yesterday," MSC Cruises said in a statement sent to The Points Guy. "By departing from the organized shore excursion, this family broke from the “social bubble” created for them and all other guests, and therefore could not be permitted to re-board the ship."
MSC Cruises noted that the buses used for tours are sanitized, and tour guides and drivers undergo health screenings and wear personal protective equipment. The tours also are designed for social distancing, the line said.
Once a passenger departs from that protective "bubble," it's impossible to know if they have been in contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19, the line has suggested.
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MSC Grandiosa departed Genoa, Italy, on Sunday, becoming the first cruise ship to sail out of Italy since March. The 4,842-passenger vessel, which is sailing at a significantly reduced capacity to allow for social distancing, is on a seven-night voyage to Civitavecchia (the port for Rome), Naples and Palermo in Italy; and Valletta, Malta.
A second MSC Cruises ship, the 2,550-passenger MSC Magnifica, will resume cruises in the Mediterranean on Aug. 29 with seven-night sailings out of Bari and Trieste, Italy, to the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus (the port for Athens).
MSC Cruises is the first major cruise line to resume sailings in the Mediterranean since the coronavirus shutdown began. The trips are starting after Italy announced earlier this month that it would allow cruises to resume out of Italian ports.
Italy has been recording fewer than 500 new coronavirus cases on most days for several months, down from more than 5,000 a day earlier this year.
Cruising also has resumed in a small way in other parts of the world in the past two months, but most major cruise lines around the world remain completely shut down for now.
The no-touring-on-your-own restriction at MSC Cruises is one of several measures the line is implementing to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t spread during voyages.
The line also is requiring passengers to undergo a COVID-19 swab test at their embarkation port on the day of embarkation and daily temperature checks while on board. Passengers who test positive for COVID-19 at embarkation or show symptoms of the illness will be denied boarding.
Related: More cruise lines are eyeing preboarding COVID tests
MSC Cruises said that five passengers initially tested positive for COVID-19 when boarding MSC Grandiosa on Sunday. But a subsequent secondary test using a type of testing that is considered to be more accurate came back negative for all five of the passengers, and they were allowed to board.
Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:
- When will cruising resume? A line-by-line guide
- Why you shouldn't expect bargain-basement cruise deals anytime soon
- How to cancel or postpone a cruise due to coronavirus
- Expecting a refund for a canceled cruise? Here's how long it will take
- Some of the year's hottest new ships could be delayed
- Stream these 13 movies, television shows to get your cruise ship fix