Italy to allow cruises to resume later this month
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Citing a reduction in coronavirus cases across the country, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte late Friday relaxed coronavirus-related restrictions on cruise ship operations in Italy, effective 15 August.
The move will allow Europe’s two biggest cruise lines, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises, to resume limited sailings out of Italy in the coming weeks.
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Both lines have been preparing for such an announcement, which has been expected for several weeks. Italy has been recording fewer than 300 new coronavirus cases on most days for several months, down from more than 5,000 a day earlier this year.
Italy was one of the hardest-hit countries in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and has recorded more than 35,000 deaths from the illness.
In the wake of the prime minister’s announcement, MSC Cruises on Saturday said it would resume cruises out of Italy on 16 August with a sailing of its 4,842-passenger MSC Grandiosa. The ship will sail seven-night voyages out of Genoa 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 sailings out of Italy on Aug. 29 with seven-night departures from the ports of Bari and Trieste to the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus.
Greece in recent days also has announced that cruise ships could resume operations.
Costa Cruises hasn’t announced a resumption date for cruises from Italy yet but is expected to restart at least a few cruises out of the country in the coming weeks.
Initially, the cruises out of Italy only will be open to passengers from select European countries where coronavirus case counts are low. Americans currently are banned from visiting Italy and most other countries in Europe due to the high number of coronavirus cases in the U.S.
Both MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises have announced an array of new health and safety measures to ensure that COVID-19 doesn’t spread on ships. MSC Cruises, notably, is planning to do a rapid COVID-19 test of every passenger just before boarding. 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.
MSC Cruises also plans to only let passenger get off its ships in ports if they’re on an official, MSC Cruises-organized tour with a guide.
In restarting cruises from Italy, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises will be joining a handful of other cruise lines that have started to resume voyages in Europe in recent weeks on a limited basis. The sailings have mostly been on small ships sailing out of Norwegian, German and French ports, and they have had mixed results.
In recent days, two relatively small 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. More than 60 passengers and crew from the ship have tested positive for COVID-19, and several have been hospitalized.
Hurtigruten has cancelled all further sailings of Roald Amundsen and two other ships that it had tried to bring back into service in recent weeks.
In the wake of the Hurtigruten incident, Norway halted all cruise stops in the country by cruise vessels with more than 100 people on board for at least the next two weeks.
The MSC Cruises vessel resuming sailings out of Italy on 16 August, MSC Grandiosa, will be by far the largest ship in the world to resume sailings to date. But it won’t be sailing full. MSC Cruises has said it would operate voyages at a maximum 70% of capacity when it returns to service.
Featured image courtesy of MSC Cruises
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