This major cruise line just announced plans to restart with more than half its fleet

Apr 15, 2021

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It looks like the comeback of cruising is kicking into high gear.

One of the world’s biggest cruise lines, MSC Cruises, announced on Thursday it would resume operations with more than half its fleet over the next three months.

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The 18-ship brand already is operating sailings out of Italy with one ship, MSC Grandiosa. But, it now plans to have at least 10 ships sailing by 1 August.

For now, all 10 of the ships will operate in Europe, where government officials have been more open to a resumption of cruising in recent months than officials in some other regions of the world, including North America. The governments of both Canada and the United States continue to ban cruising due to worries about the spread of COVID-19.

“Today we have clarity on which European destinations and ports will initially be open this summer, and we have fully reflected this into a first set of new and updated itineraries for the upcoming season,” MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato said in a statement accompanying the line’s announcement. “Guests can book their holidays with us with confidence.”

The restart outlined by MSC Cruises — the world’s third-largest cruise line by passenger capacity — is by far the most comprehensive to date from any major cruise brand.

MSC Grandiosa
MSC Cruises currently has just one of its 18 ships in operation, MSC Grandiosa. (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

The world’s largest cruise line, Royal Caribbean, has mapped out definitive comeback plans for just a handful of its 25 ships. The world’s second-largest cruise brand, Carnival Cruise Line, hasn’t announced concrete comeback plans for any of its vessels.

The plan for a cruising restart that MSC Cruises unveiled on Thursday included three ships sailing in the Western Mediterranean, three ships sailing in the Eastern Mediterranean and four vessels deployed to Northern Europe.

Most of the sailings will be open to cruisers from any country.

The three ships sailing in the Western Mediterranean are three of the line’s newest and biggest vessels:

  • MSC Grandiosa, which will extend its current seven-night sailings out of Genoa, Italy, that feature calls at  Civitavecchia (the port for Rome), Naples and Palermo, Italy, as well as Valletta, Malta. The Spanish ports of Valencia and Barcelona eventually will be added to the ship’s itinerary.
  • MSC Seaside, which will sail out of Genoa starting 1 May with calls at Siracusa, Taranto and Civitavecchia (the port for Rome) in Italy; Valetta, Malta. Eventually, the vessel also will call at the French port of Marseille
  • MSC Seashore, which will sail out of Genoa starting on 1 August on a seven-night itinerary featuring calls at Naples and Messina, Italy, Valletta; Barcelona; and Marseille.

The MSC Seashore sailings will continue through late October. The ship — a new vessel for MSC Cruises that is scheduled to debut in late July — will operate sailings to the Caribbean out of Miami starting in November, the line said.

The three ships starting back up for Eastern Mediterranean sailings will be MSC Orchestra, MSC Splendida and MSC Magnifica. All three will begin sailings in June.

MSC Orchestra will sail to the Greek Islands and Croatia out of Venice and Bari, Italy, starting on 5 June. MSC Splendida will sail to Greece, Montenegro and Croatia out of Trieste, Italy, and Bari starting on 12 June. MSC Magnifica will sail to the Greek Islands and Croatia out of Venice, Bari and Piraeus, Greece (the port for Athens), starting on 20 June.

In Northern Europe, MSC Cruises will have one vessel — MSC Virtuosa — sailing out of the U.K. port of Southampton starting on 20 May. The trips will be open to U.K. residents only.

Three MSC Cruises ships — MSC Seaview, MSC Musica and MSC Preziosa — will sail out of the northern German ports of Kiel, Warnemunde and Hamburg starting between 19 June and 21 June, the line said, assuming the ports are open by then. The ships will sail varied itineraries to the Norwegian fjords and Baltic countries.

In his statement, Onorato hinted that comeback plans for more of MSC Cruises’ 18 vessels could be announced soon.

“I am confident that in the coming weeks we will be able to further enrich some of these itineraries as well as add more ships with new ones, as more ports and tourist destinations, in particular in Spain and France, become available to receive ships and visitors,” Onorato said.  

MSC Cruises has been one of the leaders in restarting cruises around the world in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. It restarted sailings out of Italy in August with the MSC Grandiosa, and the trips have continued with just one interruption since then.

The line on Thursday said the vessel had carried more than 60,000 passengers since restarting operations without incident.

MSC Cruises is testing all passengers for COVID-19 as they arrive at the pier for sailings and has implemented a long list of onboard safety protocols including a mask-wearing requirement and social distancing rules.

Unlike some lines that have resumed sailings or plan to resume sailings soon, it isn’t requiring passengers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to board.

Cruising around the world ground to a halt in March of 2020 after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, and many lines have yet to restart a single sailing.

Still, in recent weeks, a number of cruise lines have begun mapping out restart plans, often with just one or two vessels.

Just last week, luxury line Silversea announced plans to restart sailings in June with a single ship sailing out of Piraeus, and Norwegian Cruise Line announced plans to resume cruising in July with a single ship sailing to the Greek islands out of Piraeus. Norwegian plans to add two more vessels back to service in the Caribbean in August.

Luxury line Seabourn last week also announced it would resume sailings in July with voyages to the Greek islands out of Piraeus.

The announcements came just days after Celebrity Cruises announced it would resume Greek Islands cruises out of Piraeus in June and Royal Caribbean said it would launch Greek Islands sailings out of Cyprus in July.

Featured image courtesy of MSC Cruises.

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