Alan Fine, May 21, 2021
Cruising from the U.K. resumed after a 14-month hiatus when MSC Virtuosa departed from the port of Southampton for a four-night sailing that marked the start of her maiden season at sea. The MSC Cruises’ flagship will be the first ocean liner to sail in British waters since the global cruise industry came to a voluntary halt in March 2020 as a result of the global pandemic ashore.
MSC was the first major cruise line to resume sailing in international waters in August 2020 when MSC Grandiosa began weekly cruises in the Mediterranean following approval by a range of European authorities for an advanced health and safety protocol that has since effectively set a new standard for the industry.
“We are very proud that MSC Virtuosa’s first ever sailing marks the resumption of cruising from British ports after an enforced break of more than a year and effectively heralds the next phase of restart for our industry,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises. “The data, knowledge and experience we have gleaned since our initial restart in the Mediterranean has helped us to drive forward with our plans to have nearly half of our fleet back at sea during this coming summer, with more to follow in other key markets around the world. Since our restart last August in the Mediterranean, thousands of guests have had a safe and enjoyable cruise holiday on board one of our ships and we look forward to many more having the same…as more of our ships return to water in the U.K., across the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.”
MSC Virtuosa’s U.K. cruises add to MSC Grandiosa and MSC Seaside’s current sailings in the Mediterranean. MSC is finalizing its preparations to restart five more ships across the Eastern and Western Mediterranean and Northern Europe in the coming weeks following the go-ahead from relevant authorities to resume safe and responsible operations. MSC is also awaiting authorities in the U.S. to allow for Caribbean voyages as well as other traditional markets to resume.
The new environmentally advanced 181,000 gross-registerd-ton MSC Virtuosa will be available during the summer for British residents only and for guests of all ages who are either waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine or who have already been vaccinated. All guests are tested before they embark the ship and non-vaccinated guests are required to also show proof of a negative test conducted up to 72 hours prior to embarkation.
Other pre-boarding and onboard protective measures also apply to both guests and crew, in line with MSC’s health and safety protocol. The leading protocol was developed last year with input from international health experts, including MSC’s COVID-19 Blue-Ribbon Expert Group, and in close cooperation with national and regional health, transport and safety authorities throughout Europe.
Many of MSC Virtuosa’s 1,150 crew members have received COVID-19 vaccines as part of MSC’s comprehensive and ongoing fleet-wide vaccination program for all crew members that began at the beginning of May. For more information, visit www.msccruises.com.