‘Notwithstanding the pandemic difficulties, we have been working hard with Genoa’s port, services and health authorities to be ready for this moment,’ Edoardo Monzani, CEO of Stazioni Marittime, told Seatrade Cruise News a few days ahead of MSC Grandiosa’s first departure on August 16.
The wait for a resumption of cruises in the West Mediterranean came to an end when Italy’s COVID-19 Technical Scientific Committee approved the safety protocol defined by the Health Minister and Minister of Transport and Infrastructure with ports and cruise operators on August 5, followed by the formal green light from Italy's government.
‘We have completely redesigned the layout of the welcome and check-in areas and guest flows in and outside the cruise terminal to satisfy the national safety protocol as well as the higher standards requested by MSC Cruises’ safety protocol,’ explained Monzani.
Personnel from MSC Cruises, the main stakeholder in Stazioni Marittime, and from the terminal operator have been conducting test runs this past week with crew simulating arriving passengers under the supervision of the maritime, air and border health offices (USMAF, Uffici di Sanità Marittima, Aerea e di Frontiera).
‘Thanks to these trials, we have fine-tuned the whole process and flows and now we are ready to resume operations,’ Monzani said.
Starting on Sunday and for subsequent departures, the redesigned embarkation procedure with digital check-in processes will see passengers coming from Schengen area countries arriving in groups under pre-arranged time slots advised by the cruise company to manage guest flow.
Once entering the cruise terminal at ground level, guests will begin with a temperature check and then health questionnaire screening while their luggage will follow a separate flow via X-ray check and sanitization processes before being loaded on board.
Checked guests who get the all-clear will then proceed to the terminal’s mid-level floor where 15 stations accommodating a doctor and nurse will conduct a swab test.
‘Once completed, the guests will move to a 400-seat waiting area with social distancing measures, where they will stay for up to 45 minutes, the average time required for the test results,’ Monzani explained.
Swab testing machines
MSC Cruises will house the swab testing machines on board, not only for the embarkation process but also for further tests undertaken during the cruise.
If the test is negative, the guest will proceed to the next stage of the embarkation receiving the MSC for Me electronic bracelet, as normal.
If the test comes back positive, ‘the guest and his/her family or accompanying persons will be taken to an isolated area, where they will be asked to undertake a second health screening and a molecular swab test, which will be sent to the laboratories at Genoa’s San Martino, with results expected within a few hours,’ said Monzani.
If the results are found to be positive the guest(s) will be denied boarding and the local health authorities will be informed.
The costs of all procedures and tests are covered by the cruise line.
MSC Cruises has introduced a new COVID-19 Protection Plan insurance which if purchased, will cover the traveler if they become infected prior to their departure, in case they are not able to travel, and during and after the cruise if they fall ill.
For the first sailing on Sunday, 1,500 passengers will embark in Genoa while, for the follow-on cruises, this figure will reach up to 70% of the ship’s capacity, MSC said.