MSC Cruises has updated its health and safety protocols for sailing from the United States. In response to the CDC lifting the voluntary program for cruise ships, the cruise line is removing the need for providing a negative test result on sailings of five nights and below.
The cruise company also introduced less strict measures for unvaccinated guests and removed the need for PCR testing; instead, stating a negative antigen or NAAT test will suffice. For cruises of six nights and longer, guests will still need to provide a negative test result.
MSC Cruises Drops Testing On Shorter Sailings
Following in the footsteps of other major cruise companies, MSC Cruises has made several changes to its health and safety protocols for cruises sailing from the United States. The changes follow the lifting of the voluntary Program for Cruise Ships from the CDC several weeks ago.
The new protocols will be in effect from August 8, 2022, onwards. They include that all fully vaccinated guests sailing on a cruise of five nights or shorter will no longer be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result before sailing. Instead, the cruise line only recommends getting tested before sailing.
For all unvaccinated guests aged two years and up, a lab-administered negative viral test (NAAT or antigen) taken within three days of embarkation is needed for all cruises from U.S. ports. The same policy counts for all cruises onboard MSC cruise ships sailing itineraries six days and longer from U.S. ports.
No Changes To Vaccination Policies
For all cruises sailing from the United States, there will be no changes to the vaccination policies that are in place currently. This means that all guests ages 12 years and older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
MSC Cruises recommends that fully vaccinated guests receive booster doses when eligible, per CDC recommendations.
If and when the vaccination policies will change depending on the pandemic conditions and port requirements outside of the U.S., MSC Cruises says the goal is to relax testing and vaccination protocols to open cruising to all guests when possible. A statement that is quite significant given the cryptic messages from Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line last week.
Whether that statement holds any salt right now remains to be seen, with cruise executives seemingly hesitant to push for too many changes too soon.
Major Changes In Cruise Industry
In the last few weeks, we have seen some significant changes to protocols in the cruise industry. Some cruise lines have removed testing entirely or created protocols that only require guests to test on shorter cruises, such as MSC, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Line.
The changes have been a long time coming. In August 2020, MSC Cruises was one of the first cruise lines to resume operations in what was essentially the middle of the pandemic.
Since then, we’ve seen the introduction of vaccine mandates, testing before sailing, and multiple other initiatives that have paved the way and made it possible for cruise companies to introduce the current procedures.
However, the step to letting go of all those requirements seems to be one that none of the cruise lines is willing to take just yet.
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While some cannot wait for the cruise companies to drop the protocols, the fact is that COVID-19 is still here, and the public perception of an outbreak onboard is still something that weighs heavy on the minds of executives.
For now, the changes we have seen in the last weeks are already a huge step forward and one not many people predicted just a month ago. With that in mind, we could see more changes sooner than we think.