New COVID-era cruise restriction: No leaving the ship without an escort
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Would you take a cruise if you couldn’t leave the ship during a port call without an escort?
MSC Cruises this week said passengers on the two ships — MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica — only would be allowed to get off in ports if they were on an official, MSC Cruises-organized shore excursion with a guide.
For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s new cruise newsletter
Passengers will not be allowed to tour port towns on their own, and the same rule will apply to crew on the ships, too.
In a conference call this week with The Points Guy and several other travel media outlets, MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato suggested the measure was critical to ensuring that passengers and crew don’t bring COVID-19 on board the ships after visiting a port.
“We will make sure (they) are going only to certain places, and they are respecting the social distancing (and) the wearing of masks all the time in order to reduce the risk of getting the virus while in the ports,” Onorato said.
The new restriction also will “ensure that the communities where the (ships) will visit will feel safe, because they will receive healthy people that also are being protecting during the stay in port.”
MSC Cruises is one of a handful of cruise lines starting to resume voyages on a limited basis in Europe, where coronavirus case counts have dropped significantly in recent months. For now, the trips only are open to local European travelers from select countries.
Already, several small cruise operators in Europe have restarted cruising in a small way, with mixed results. In recent days, two cruise ships that resumed operations in Norway with trips aimed at local Norwegians and other Europeans have experienced COVID scares.
One of the vessels that started back up, Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen, has had a major outbreak of the illness. Dozens of passengers and crew on the ship have tested positive for COVID-19, and several have been hospitalized. Hurtigruten has canceled all further sailings of the ship and two others that it had tried to bring back into service in recent weeks.
A no-touring-on-your-own restriction of the sort MSC Cruises plans to implement is relatively rare in the cruise world, though not unprecedented. The small vessels that sail in the Galapagos, for instance, only allow passengers to disembark for wildlife watching when in a group accompanied by a licensed guide. The rule is mandated by the Ecuadorian government agency that oversees tourism in the Galapagos.
The touring restriction is one of several measures that MSC Cruises is implementing on the two ships that are about to resume sailings to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t spread during voyages.
The line also will require passengers to undergo a COVID-19 swab test at the 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.
MSC Cruises is the first cruise line to announce plans to test all passengers for COVID-19 on the day of departure.
The two MSC Cruises ships also will undergo enhanced cleaning on a regular basis, and capacity limits in shipboard venues will be reduced to allow for social distancing. Passengers will be asked to wear masks in elevators and other onboard places where social distancing isn’t possible.
Onorato acknowledged that some of the restrictions were “severe.” But he said they were necessary for the line to resume operations.
Given that MSC Cruises won’t be allowing passengers to get off the vessels for independent touring, Onorato said the line would be including a number of official MSC Cruises shore excursions in the fare for the new sailings. The number of excursions that are included will depend on the level of accommodation that a passenger has booked.
Passengers also will be able to buy additional excursions for a reduced rate, Onorato suggested.
The two vessels both will sail in the Mediterranean out of Italian ports. The MSC Grandiosa, which normally carries 4,842 passengers at double occupancy, will operate out of Genoa on seven-night voyages to Civitavecchia (the port for Rome), Naples and Palermo in Italy; and Valletta, Malta. The MSC Magnifica, which normally carries 2,550 passengers at double occupancy, will depart from the ports of Bari and Trieste on seven-night trips with stops at the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus.
On Saturday, the line announced that the first sailings of the two ships would be on Aug. 16 and Aug. 29, respectively.
Both ships only will be sailing at 70% of capacity to allow for social distancing.
MSC Cruises on Saturday canceled all other Mediterranean sailings and all North American voyages through Oct. 31. Until Saturday, the line only had canceled Europe sailings through Aug. 15 and North American sailings through Sept. 15.
MSC Cruises on Saturday also canceled all Asia sailings through Oct. 26.
The cancellations mean that MSC Cruises only will operate two of its 17 ships this summer.
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
Featured image courtesy of MSC Cruises
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.