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Unvaccinated on MSC's US cruises must buy insurance, 'bubble' tours

Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve is the one destination where travelers not fully vaccinated can go ashore without buying a 'bubble' tour
Travelers not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will have to buy insurance and, to go ashore, 'bubble' excursions, MSC Cruises said in opening sales for US-based ships. Testing at embarkation and masks indoors will be required of all passengers.

Regardless of vaccination status, MSC will require universal testing at embarkation, which exceeds Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirements that allow operators the discretion to forgo testing fully vaccinated travelers.

Travelers will receive a rapid antigen test, the cost covered by MSC Cruises.

Masks for all indoors

Aboard ship everyone, regardless of vaccination status, will need to wear a mask indoors in public spaces. As the CDC has specified, only on ships with 95% vaccinated crew/passengers do operators have the discretion to let fully vaccinated travelers forgo masks.

Regardless of vaccination status, MSC said passengers don't need to mask up outdoors, though this is recommended for unvaccinated travelers and for everyone where social distancing isn't possible.

Extra costs/tests for the unvaccinated

Cruisers who are not fully vaccinated will have extra requirements and costs.

Among those: They'll have to buy MSC Cruises’ Travel Insurance and COVID-19 Protection Services and will be subject to more stringent protocols on board. These currently include the required purchase of MSC-sponsored excursions to go ashore (with the exception of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve) and extra testing. Physical distancing will be mandated, too.

PCR test before traveling to ship, antigen before going home

Passengers not fully vaccinated must get a PCR test within 72 hours before sailing and provide a negative result at embarkation. Travelers are responsible for the test and cost.

For cruises five nights or longer, travelers not fully vaccinated will be required to take a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of disembarkation, the cost covered by MSC Cruises.

Fully vaccinated passengers

For sailings by Oct. 31, fully vaccinated travelers will receive MSC Cruises' COVID-19 Reassurance protection at no charge. (This also applies to children under 12 traveling with fully vaccinated parents/guardians, and guests recovered from COVID-19 within 90 days of sailing who have documentation of recovery).

The policy gives a full refund or future cruise credit for the passenger and traveling party if anyone tests positive within 14 days before the cruise starts or at the embarkation terminal, and a prorated refund or FCC for anyone whose cruise is cut short due to testing postive or who is suspected of having COVID-19 during the cruise.

The policy also ensures that anyone testing positive during the cruise will have these COVID-19-related costs covered: emergency medical transportation (up to $10,000), medical treatment (up to $10,000), any required land-based quarantine, including lodging and meals (up to $4,000) and transportation home for the passenger and traveling party (up to $1,000).

Further insurance details and prices are here.

Documentation of vaccination

Every fully vaccinated traveler in the booking must provide a copy of their CDC vaccination card up to 48 hours prior to the cruise (if proof is not shown, they will be required to follow the not fully vaccinated guest requirements). A link will be sent for pre-cruise upload. In addition, vaccination cards must be shown at embarkation or boarding will be denied. 

This would seem to go against current Florida law banning businesses from requiring vaccine documentation, however some legal experts think this application to interstate/international cruises violates federal law, specifically the Commerce Clause.

MSC Meraviglia and MSC Divina cruises

MSC Meraviglia will resume sailing from PortMiami Aug. 2 with three- and four-night getaways to the Bahamas and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. Starting Sept. 18, the ship will alternate seven-night eastern and western Caribbean cruises.

MSC Divina begin cruising Sept. 16 from Port Canaveral with three-, four- and seven-night cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean.

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