Valletta Cruise Port will be welcoming its first cruise ship, the MSC Grandiosa, on Friday 21st August, which will be operating under a strict and comprehensive health and safety protocol that applies equally both on land and at sea, the company said in a statement.

The MSC Grandiosa is the first post-lockdown Mediterranean cruise to depart since the height of the pandemic, and, despite Maltese ports being open since 1st July, no cruise ships have called at Valletta since March 2020.

MSC Cruises’ new operating protocol has been designed to also protect the health and safety of the local communities that the company’s ships visit as well as guests and crew, the Valletta Cruise Port said.

“For this reason, it meets and goes beyond guidelines provided by key international and regional regulatory and technical bodies, as well as regulations set forth by the governments in the countries in which MSC Cruises ships operate.

“Additionally, RINA, the independent maritime certification corporation, has verified that the protocol meets the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) Guidance, which incorporates additional health standards including those from the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action.

“MSC Cruises’ protocol includes universal testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation. Additionally, guests will not be allowed to go ashore independently but only on protected excursions thus also protecting the communities they visit.”

MSC Cruises will be the first of the major cruise operators to return with port calls. MSC Cruises restarted its operations earlier this week with MSC Grandiosa sailing from Genoa on a seven-night Western Mediterranean Cruise. For this initial phase of the restart of operations, the ship will initially only welcome guests who are resident in Schengen countries.

Under the MSC Cruises protocol, prior to embarkation all guests must go through universal health screening that includes three comprehensive steps –, a temperature check, a health questionnaire and a COVID-19 antigen swab test.

Depending on the screening results and according to the guest’s medical or travel history, a secondary health screening and follow-up molecular testing will take place.

Any guest who tests positive, displays symptoms or a temperature will be denied boarding. Following guidelines from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, guests travelling from countries categorised as high risk will also be required to take a molecular RT-PCR test, to be done within 72 hours prior to joining the ship.

All crew members will be tested two times for COVID-19 and go through a 14-day isolation period and a third and final molecular RT-PCR test prior to embarkation. Crew will also be regularly tested during their contract, at least twice a month in addition to ongoing health monitoring.

The ship will also be sailing with a maximum occupancy rate of 70 percent, allowing for 10 square meters of space per passenger.

Malta, since mid-July, has experienced a resurgence of the virus with over 600 active cases.

Stephen Xuereb, CEO of Valletta Cruise Port and COO of Global Ports Holding commented, “We are excited to be welcoming MSC Grandiosa back to Valletta. The safety and well-being of guests, personnel and the local community is our upmost priority. In the last months together with the local health and tourism authorities and the cruise lines, we have been busy working on protocols that ensure a safe, secure and seamless experience for our guests.

“Testament to this, Valletta Cruise Port has been awarded the World Travel and Tourism Council’s ‘Safe Travel’ stamp which recognises the adoption of health and hygiene global standardised protocols.”

Emre Sayin, CEO of Global Ports Holding Plc said, “For a company like ours, which handles thousands of cruise calls in a normal year, one call does not seem so significant. But this call is an important milestone because it is the first international cruise call to one of the 19 cruise ports we operate since the whole world locked down as a result of the pandemic.

WI also find it comforting that the measures go beyond anything we have seen so far: Everyone involved in the journey is tested either in the ship or in the port.

“This will give cruise-goers and local communities ease of mind. As GPH, we are ready to host cruise guests, adopting protocols which have been accredited with the ‘Safe Travel’ stamp by the World Travel and Tourism council. The GPH ports already accredited are Barcelona, Malaga, Antigua, Kusadasi, Bodrum, Zadar and of course Valletta.”

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