The US has banned cruising until at least September 2020, with many cruise lines even canceling cruises through the new year, but in the Mediterranean, cruising is making a return on August 16. When Mediterranean cruises return, however, it won’t be for everybody. The cruises will only be available to residents of Europe’s 26-nation Schengen Area, and passenger movement between ship and shore will be restricted.
The first ship to sail again in the Mediterranean will be the MSC Grandiosa on August 16, with a seven-night voyage to Genoa, Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples, Palermo, and Malta. In a statement, MSC’s executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago outlined new testing for passengers and staff before embarkation, temperature checks, and severe limits on shore excursions.
“During the pause in our operations,” he said, “we focused on developing a comprehensive operating protocol that builds upon already stringent health and safety measures that have long been in place on board our ships.”
MSC’s country manager Leonardo Massa told CNN, “These procedures will continue as long as this pandemic exists,” he said. “They might change, depending on the opportunities that technology allows or the evolution of the pandemic … until we return, hopefully as soon as possible, to a normal situation.”
Costa cruise line will resume as well shortly after. The Costa Deliziosa will depart from Trieste on September 6 and the Costa Diadema on September 19.
Given enhanced safety protocols and safety-based movement restrictions, passengers shouldn’t expect a return to cruising that exactly resembles their pre-pandemic experience. For vacation-starved passengers, however, the return of Mediterranean cruising is good news despite the additional inconveniences.