MSC Grandiosa: launch of the first Mediterranean cruise after a five-month hiatus

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MSC Cruises says all passengers and crew tested for coronavirus before boarding


The first large cruise ship to sail the Mediterranean in nearly five months has landed from the Italian city of Genoa.

MSC Grandiosa will call at three Italian ports and the Maltese capital Valletta on a seven-day voyage.

Operator MSC Cruises, said all passengers and crew were tested for the coronavirus before boarding.

It comes as cases of the virus continue to rise around Italy, with more than 600 reported by authorities yesterday.

In response, Italian authorities ordered the closure of all dance halls and nightclubs from Monday. Face masks will also be mandatory from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. local time in public areas where social distancing is not possible.

MSC Cruises said it will also operate MSC Grandiosa at around 70% of normal operations, with around 2,500 passengers on board, to ensure safety protocols.

Its launch is seen as a first step towards restarting an industry that generates around $ 150 billion (£ 114 billion) for the global economy, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

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For Italy, hard hit by the coronavirus, this is particularly important. It ranks seventh among the cruise ship operating countries, carrying more than 800,000 passengers in 2018.

Last week, the Italian government allowed cruise lines to resume operations in the country from August 15.

MSC Cruises, which operates the MSC Grandiosa, will launch another cruise from the Italian port of Bari on August 29, but has also suspended its cruises in the Mediterranean until mid-October.

The international cruise industry has suffered huge financial losses due to the pandemic. Several carriers have also been criticized for leaving thousands of passengers stranded on ships in Asia and the United States in the early months of the pandemic. As of June 11, 3,047 people have been infected and 73 have died aboard 48 CLIA-affiliated cruise ships, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The company said its new safety protocols – including daily temperature checks for people on board – exceed national and industry standards. But the navigation of the MSC Grandiosa represents a key test for the industry amid lingering concerns over passenger safety.

At the end of July, a small Norwegian operator, Hurtigruten, was forced to suspend its newly restarted service after dozens of passengers and crew tested positive for the coronavirus.

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