This week in Europe, there’s been a cruise that set sail with thousands of passengers on board. I’ve spent the last few days talking to the passengers and talking to the crew. They’ve agreed to share some photos and videos with me so that I can show you what it’s like to be on a cruise right now.
The cruise: MSC Grandiosa, Mediterranean, August 2020.
This cruise is going really well so far, but it hasn’t been completely drama-free. There’s already been one family that’s been kicked off the cruise for not following the rules, which I think is fantastic. MSC have put a lot into these procedures and they’re leading the way for us returning to cruising.
How Much Does it Cost to Make a Cruise Ship Covid Safe?
To get us cruising again, MSC are spending 500,000 euros per cruise, every single cruise, on things like coronavirus tests, medical staff, adding labs to their ships and more, 500,000 euros for every single cruise. That’s about $600,000 per cruise.
When the passengers arrived for this cruise, they headed to the port in Genoa, they had their temperature scanned before they even got into the building, and then they headed to one of these new medical stations.
When the passengers actually got to these little stations, what they had to do there was hand in some medical forms. They also had to sign a few forms that said that they were happy to have this medical test, and happy for MSC to keep the data on this.
Do You Have to Take a Coronavirus Test to Embark a Cruise?
Nobody can embark an MSC cruise without having a negative coronavirus test. Swab tests were carried out and guests had to wait for their results to come back before being allowed to board the ship.
At this point, if you did have a high temperature or you did have a positive coronavirus test, you would be denied boarding.
MSC Coronavirus Insurance
What MSC are doing, which I think is fantastic, is that they’re offering coronavirus insurance.
It’s 18 euros per person, which really is nothing compared to the cost of missing your entire cruise because you have coronavirus.
At the moment, it’s not mandatory.
You can book an MSC cruise in some places without getting this insurance, but I think it really doesn’t make sense to take an MSC cruise and not get this insurance.
At the moment, they’re the only cruise line I know that offers this insurance, but I think going forward, this will probably just be built into the cruise fare.
Speaking to The Crew and Passengers Cruising RIGHT NOW
So this week I’ve been watching this cruise like a hawk. I’ve been speaking to the passengers, I’ve been speaking to the crew, and everybody is very, very positive about this cruise.
I think it’s very, very exciting.
All of the passengers who I spoke to said that the embarkation process was very easy. All of the passengers were given a specific time to come and embark on the cruise.
Social distancing was in place. Some of the seats were cordoned off.
Guests did wear masks and generally, all of those procedures were followed by the passengers.
When getting onto the ship, passenger’s temperatures were scanned again, as you can see here. It’s a very, very easy process, a very quick scan, and then a negative result, and you’re on your way with your cruise.
MSC For me Wristbands
All of the passengers and crew on board when they embarked the ship were given a wristband.
In my opinion, the MSC For Me technology is far superior to a lot of other cruise lines.
MSC are able to actually track and trace all of the passengers and their crew using these wristbands.
If somebody did have a positive coronavirus result, they would be able to see who that person spent time with and let them know, “You’ve spent this amount of time within this distance of this person. You probably want to get tested.”
The wristband also allows you to do things like order drinks without having to get out a cruise card. You just use the wristband.
Your wristband becomes your cruise card. To learn more about the functions of cruise cards, check out this post: Cruise Keycards – Guide
The Crew – Coronavirus Tests and Temperature Scans
MSC’s crew have been tested for coronavirus multiple times.
The crew that were transferred to the ship were tested when they were at home, they were tested when they arrived, and they had to have 14 days between the first and last negative coronavirus results.
That’s because sometimes you could test negative and test positive later. So what MSC do is they have that 14-day window there. It’s as close as you can come realistically to guaranteeing that all of your staff don’t have coronavirus.
The crew do have coronavirus tests when they’re on board. The crew actually have their temperature scanned on this cruise twice per day to check that nobody’s got a high temperature.
Are The Crew Still Sharing Cabins?
At the moment, the crew are sharing cabins with other crew members, but because everybody has been through these tests, everyone’s getting the temperature scans, everybody’s had the coronavirus tests, that’s pretty much okay.
It’s not really realistic for the crew members to all have their own cabins.
If we do want to see cruising moving on and going forward, the crew are going to have to share cabins, but personally, I think we’re much more likely to see a positive coronavirus case in a passenger that’s coming onto this cruise as opposed to the crew because the crew have all been quarantined.
Have all Crew Members Been Home Yet?
Amazingly, some of the crew members have actually not gone home since cruising stopped in March (this cruise was in August 2020). I was speaking to a really lovely lady on Instagram who has actually been at sea since January.
She started in the Caribbean on a different MSC cruise ship, then came across the Atlantic, she was quarantined in Italy before joining this cruise ship.
I don’t know why I just never thought about that.
The fact that some people haven’t been home yet, it just didn’t cross my mind.
Crew Wearing Masks
Onboard the cruise ship, you will see most of the crew wearing masks.
Of course, if you’re going to see a singer, they’re not going to be singing through a mask. That doesn’t make sense.
But the waiters in the restaurants, the housekeeping teams, they’re all going to be wearing masks.
People that work on cruise ships work incredibly long days, and I can’t imagine that wearing a mask makes it any easier. So if you are taking a cruise, be extra nice to all of the staff that are wearing masks.
Do Cruise Ships Still Have Buffets Post Covid 19?
One of the biggest changes and one of the things that everybody seems interested in is the buffet.
The buffet is still there. They haven’t knocked down the buffet.
You can still go to the buffet to get a snack. But the difference is is that all of the food is served to you by people who are wearing masks.
There are also marks on the floor so that you can social distance and you can stay away from your other passengers. I really like this idea. I’m quite happy about not having to touch the same tongs and utensils as hundreds of other people. So fingers crossed, this does work out.
Everybody I’ve spoken is enjoying the new buffet style, and it might also help with food waste, because some people probably just take what they need.
Sometimes in buffets, you see people loading up their plates sky high with things that they won’t actually eat. So fingers crossed the new style will help with that, too. That would be good.
Main Dining Room
In the main dining room, there are QR codes for the passengers who do want to look at the menus on their phones.
If you’re somebody who isn’t very techie, doesn’t have a phone, or doesn’t want to use a phone on a cruise, that’s completely fine.
There are still going to be some paper menus for you, but all of the QR codes are there.
There are different QR codes for different things, and it’s very, very easy to look at these on your phone.
Do You Have to Pay For WiFi to Look at Menus on Your Phone?
You don’t have to pay for the ship’s wifi in order to use the QR codes and menus. You have to be connected to the wifi so that it knows that you’re on the cruise ship, but you don’t have pay for it.
Don’t worry about having to pay for a wifi package to use the QR code apps because you don’t, it’s completely free.
Onboard Social Distancing and Mask Wearing
Onboard guests are social distancing and they are wearing masks. You can see people here keeping a pretty good distance apart from people.
That is helped by the fact that this cruise is only 70% full, but that said, they’ve kind of redesigned things so that it is easier to social distance.
MSC has said that on this cruise, every passenger has 10 square meters of public space, which is quite a lot.
One of the things I love about MSC ships is that they have a lot of space on the top deck.
They have big lounges and big bars, and I think that’s made it much easier for MSC to make the space.
On some other cruise lines, you’ll find things kind of crammed into every single corner. But on MSC, the ships feel pretty spacious to me anyway, and I think that’s really helping them now that we all need more space.
Even in the elevator, social distancing rules do apply.
You can see here these little stickers on the floor, that is where the passengers are supposed to stand.
Do You Have to Wear a Mask on The Top Decks?
When you’re up and you’re wandering around the top deck, nobody really is wearing masks.
Some people do, some people just like to, and if you like to always wear a mask, that’s no problem.
You can, but you don’t have to when you’re up on the top deck just wandering around.
What I really like about looking at this picture below is I can easily see a way that I could walk across, the top deck without coming into contact with anybody.
I can see places where I could sit, I could order a drink, and I would be very, very happy being on this cruise.
I’m Feeling Optimistic About The Future of Cruise!
I like the way that everything is planned. It kind of makes me feel more relaxed. And honestly, I’m feeling pretty proud of MSC and the way that they’ve put all of this together because this isn’t easy.
No one planned for this, but I think they’ve done a really great job, and it does make me feel much happier about the future of cruising.
Are The Theater Shows Still on?
If you’re going to see a theater show, the theater shows are still on every night but the shows will be repeated.
The only thing is that when you’re going in and when you’re coming out, when you’re likely to bump into people, you’re asked to wear a mask.
When you’re sitting down and you’re watching the show, you don’t actually have to wear a mask, but some of the seats are crossed off so that not everybody is kind of squished in.
Reduced Capacity – 70%
The same goes for just general life on the ship. Some things are cornered off. You can see here, one of these seats is cornered off in order to keep the passengers further apart.
I think that’s something that we’re just going to have to get used to.
It’s much easier though because this cruise ship has 70% capacity.
I can’t imagine trying to keep the same amount of space between everybody when a ship is at 100% capacity, I’m not sure how that will realistically work, but for right now, reduced capacity cruises, everybody’s got plenty of space and it looks very nice, very nice.
MSC Excursions Only
Guests who are on this MSC cruise have to take MSC excursions if they want to get off in port.
If they don’t want to do any excursions, they can stay on the cruise ship, and to be honest, I would be quite happy to do that right now. But if you do want to explore the port, you have to take MSC’s excursions.
I’ve heard some people say that this is ridiculous and they can’t control you in that way. Of course, they can.
MSC has put in so much money and so much effort to make sure that their cruise ships are safe, they can’t just get to a port and let everybody do whatever they like.
They need to make sure that the same procedures and the same guidelines are followed on land as they would be on the ship. And the only way that they can do that is by doing their own excursions.
How Much do The Excursions Cost?
MSC have massively reduced the price of these excursions.
Depending on the type of cabin you book, you will have some excursions included in your cruise fare, but to buy three more excursions is only 100 euros.
On some other cruise lines, you’re going to pay 100 euros for a half-day tour. So three excursions for 100 euros, I think is really good.
I have to say, when I’m cruising by myself, I’m not a massive fan of cruise line excursions because you normally end up stuck on a bus, you end up following someone with an umbrella, it does feel quite regimented.
But that said, this is the world that we live in right now, and if you want to be on one of these beginner cruises, that’s how it’s going to be.
This will change as things develop, but for now, and I think for the foreseeable future, you’re going to have to stick to cruise line excursions.
Other Cruise Lines Are Following Suit
Costa Cruises have just come out and said that they’re going to be doing the same thing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other cruise lines follow suit.
A Family Has Already Broken The Rules and Were Kicked Off The Ship
All of these passengers who were on this MSC cruise, in their cruise contract, it says that they will only take MSC excursions when they’re in port.
That means that if somebody breaks these rules, the cruise line is completely within their rights to kick somebody off the cruise ship.
I think about it like if you go to somebody’s house, you follow their rules. If you’re going on a cruise ship, you follow the cruise ship’s rules, or they’re not going to let you on there, simple as that.
The family in question did break some procedures when they were on an excursion and they were not allowed to cruise again, which I think is fantastic. That’s how it should be.
MSC’s Get Back to Cruising Plan
This cruise on the MSC Grandiosa is just the start MSC are actually planning on having two cruise ships cruising this summer.
The two shipsare the Grandiosa and the Magnifica.
By winter, MSC are hoping to have 14 cruise ships sailing, and then by next year, they’re planning on having 19 sailing.
MSC will have a cruise ship stationed in the UK next year, which is very, very exciting for me as I’m from the UK.
They’ve got cruise ships stationed all over the world. Pretty much wherever you are, you’ll find an MSC cruise ship.
Reduced Nationalities Onboard
This cruise only allowed people from certain places onboard and at the moment Brits are excluded from that as are Americans.
I don’t think it will be too long before we see an MSC cruise from the UK, and you better bet I’m going to do everything I can to get on board that cruise.
I think it’s going to be a bit longer before we see MSC cruising in North America.
They’ve said at the moment they don’t have any plans to restart cruising in North America in the foreseeable future because we just don’t really know what’s happening over there. But I think it is a fantastic sign that this cruise is going ahead in Europe.
Looking Ahead to 2021
MSC have said that as far as bookings go, the summer of 2021 is looking really good.
A lot of people do have future cruise credits, so they’ve just rebooked for the next summer, and some people are booking new cruises, too. So fingers crossed going into next year we’re going to see more and more MSC cruises.
I’m very happy that MSC are at the forefront of this. They’re already set up. Their ships are fantastic. They’ve got all the technology on board.
If everybody sticks to the procedures, I think this will go very, very well and into next year, we’ll see more and more MSC cruises.
They’ll come back to America at some point, and I think they’re also going to be in the lead when it comes to restarting America cruises.
It’s a really good time for MSC. They’re popping out new cruise ships like it is nobody’s business. They actually just floated out the MSC Seashore, which is really exciting.
If you’re used to cruising on American cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, like Carnival, like Norwegian, and you’re wondering how does MSC compare to these big American cruise lines, I have a video about that. Watch this next:
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