To date the sailings are offered to Schengen-based passengers only.
Last week, MSC Cruises revealed that its new flagship, MSC Seashore, will be based at the Port of Barcelona from August through October for a season of seven-night cruises.
‘Our decision was very much aligned with the rules that the countries in Europe are setting for international travel,’ Onorato told Seatrade. ‘As soon as these rules make it possible for others to travel into [mainland] Europe, we will immediately align to that.’
Asked when this might occur, he added, ‘We do believe this will happen very, very soon. There will be more and more vaccinated people, there will be less pressure on the medical facilities all over Europe… We do hope, also, that there will still be in place very strict [safety] procedures for people coming from abroad, but we really hope there will be a lessening of rules in order to have people travelling.
‘As soon as this happens, we will adapt ourselves to that.’
Message to the global cruise industry
‘You realise how important something is only when you miss it,’ continued the MSC Cruises CEO. ‘We see that local communities around the world — from all the destinations — really miss travel, not only from an economical standpoint, but also because of the experience and knowledge that tourism brings. Cruising is very important. The cruise industry can bring a lot of benefits.’
While acknowledging that ‘in every activity, without proper surveillance of the virus, the situation will never improve,’ he noted that cruising is achievable in other locations, given the right protocols.
He said, ‘I believe that we will show that it’s possible, so even others, in other parts of the world, can start to see with more confidence that cruising can restart — with all the processes and rules in place.
‘We are very confident this will be a strong signal also for the US and for other parts of the world to receive cruise ships.
‘We hope we have started a clear path to see the light at the end of the tunnel,’ he said.
On course to introduce more destinations
Reflecting the sentiment of the cruise line’s executive chairman and global chairman of Cruise Lines International Association, Pierfrancesco Vago, earlier this year, Onorato confirmed that projects are still in place to introduce new destinations along the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf in 2021/22.
‘All the plans are on course. We need to be optimistic,’ he said. ‘We continue to confirm our new builds’ plan, so we’re confident the industry will recover.
‘It will take longer than expected, it’s true, but at the same time, the fundamentals in this business are very strong.’
Commitment to the UK market
As MSC prepares to welcome crew on board its newest vessel, MSC Virtuosa, for UK-based sailings out of Southampton from next month, Onorato offered, ‘I am curious how successful this will be… The sign of our commitment with the UK market is shown by the fact that we will display our latest addition to the fleet. A success in the UK [this summer] can also mean a boost to our plan of growth in the UK.'