MSC Cruises says family denied reboarding after they broke COVID-19 'social bubble'
MSC Cruises cracked down on passengers who broke newly implemented COVID-19 health and safety protocol as the cruise line's ships resume sailing after the pandemic shut the global industry down in March.
On Tuesday, the cruise line denied a family from getting back on board the MSC Grandiosa after an excursion during which MSC Cruises says they broke from the "social bubble" put in place to avoid the spread of coronavirus. The Grandiosa departed from Genoa, Italy, Sunday on what was billed as the first Mediterranean cruise after Italy’s pandemic lockdown.
"We had to deny re-embarkation to a family who broke from their shore excursion yesterday while visiting Naples, Italy," Paige Rosenthal, spokesperson for MSC Cruises, told USA TODAY Wednesday.
Among the other port calls for the Grandiosa are Palermo, Italy, and Valletta, Malta. Malta is one of four Mediterranean countries from which Italy requires incoming travelers to have COVID-19 tests.
MSC stopped the family from getting on the ship to ensure the health and safety of passengers and crew on board, she explained, noting that because the group departed from the organized shore excursion, they would pose a risk to others upon getting back on the Grandiosa.
"This family broke from the 'social bubble' created for them and all other guests, and therefore could not be permitted to re-board the ship," Rosenthal said.
Organized shore excursions allow MSC to "uphold the same high standards" she said are being maintained on board.
Some of those measures include:
- Ensuring transportation to and from the ship is sanitary.
- Adequate space for social distancing.
- Tour guides and drivers that have undergone health screening and wear personal protective equipment.
On board MSC's ships, precautions are in place, too.
"All guests undergo a universal health screening at pre-embarkation which is comprised of as many as two phases of health screenings, all of which take place ashore prior to be considered fit for boarding," Rosenthal said.
The first phase has three steps: temperature test, a health questionnaire review and an antigen swab test.
Any person who has a temperature is immediately denied boarding. If they pass the temperature test and have a negative antigen test, a passenger is cleared to board.
"If positive, he or she goes for a secondary screening — in a separate dedicated area of the terminal, together with his/her traveling party — which includes an even more detailed medical screening as well as a molecular swab test," Rosenthal said. "The guest and his/her party are not cleared to go on board unless he/she tests negative. MSC Cruises provides the testing completed at the terminal."
During pre-embarkation in Genoa, five antigen swab tests came back positive. Each passenger who tested positive went through secondary testing through molecular tests. All were negative, Rosenthal said.
Another few passengers were denied embarkation because they didn't meet boarding residency requirements.
For now, MSC is limiting its guests to those who are residents of Europe’s 26-nation Schengen visa-free travel zone.
Three people tested positive on an antigen swab test in Naples. Each of the passengers who tested positive took secondary, molecular tests that were found to be negative by health authorities on Thursday in Naples.
"The individuals stayed overnight Wednesday in isolation for their safety and were offered the opportunity to join the ship in Palermo," Rosenthal explained, noting they instead opted to embark on the following Grandiosa cruise departing Aug. 23.
Earlier this month, the Italian government gave its approval for cruise ships to once again depart from Italy’s ports. But cruise ships are being limited to 70% capacity.
"MSC Cruises is limiting the capacity of its ships during its initial phase of restart to 70%," Rosenthal said. "And MSC Grandiosa is closer to 50% capacity for this particular sailing."
MSC said every guest and crew member on board will be given a wristband that “facilitates contactless transactions around the ship as well as providing contact and proximity tracing.”
Passengers must wear face masks in elevators and other areas where social distancing is not possible. The ship's crew spent time in quarantine before the start of the cruise.
Cruising remains on hold in U.S. waters until Nov. 1, at the earliest.
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Contributing: The Associated Press