Industry Update
External Article31 August 2020

Cruise trips are back. This is what they look like now

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Boarding in the Italian port of Genoa for a seven-day Mediterranean cruise on August 16, travel agent Valeria Belardi prepared herself for a voyage like no other.Belardi was one of some 3,000 pioneering cruisers on board MSC Grandiosa, the first cruise liner to return to the Mediterranean following the global shut down of the multi billion-dollar cruise industry in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.The voyage was characterized by Covid testing, social distancing, hand sanitizing and temperature checks, but it was, Belardi told CNN, also relaxing and enjoyable.

More importantly it was, reportedly, virus-free.MSC Cruises wouldn't confirm exact numbers, but the Grandiosa was operating at about 60% of its 6,300 passenger capacity.There were day trips, including sightseeing in the Maltese capital Valletta and the Sicilian city of Palermo. While on board, Belardi enjoyed pre-packaged snacks on the deck, relaxing evenings by the pool and a trip to the spa."I think cruises could be the safest holiday, right now," said Belardi, who owns travel company Vivere & Viaggiare Roma Pittaluga. But MSC Grandiosa is almost alone in its return to the high seas.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended a no-sail order effectively banning cruising around American waters until at least September 2020.Major operators, including Princess Cruises, have also canceled sailings in regions outside the United States, including Asia, the Caribbean, South America and Antarctica, until mid-December.

Smaller cruise lines across Europe have restarted operations, with varying results. Earlier this month, 41 crew and 21 guests tested positive for Covid-19 after sailing on small Norwegian cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen.MSC Cruises is one of the first major companies to test the waters with a big ship, and cruise industry experts see it as a crucial test.How Grandiosa and subsequent scheduled Med voyages fare could be an indicator of how cruising can safely return in a changed world.

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