CFR's Jon Ingleton reflects on his first post-pandemic cruise onboard MSC Cruises' MSC Virtuosa
Whatever subconscious reservations you may be harbouring about cruising during the pandemic they will be swiftly eased as you go through the embarkation process with MSC Cruises in Southampton, UK.
From the moment you arrive in the terminal, it is clear that passenger health and safety it is an efficiently managed operation, which includes a mandatory PCR test and verification of your certified negative test within 72 hours of arrival. This focus on health and safety is unrelenting throughout the cruise, but it quickly becomes routine, barely impacts the experience and is never an inconvenience.
Wearing masks is compulsory as you wander around the ship and until you sit down to eat and drink or when you’re in your cabin. Occasional forgetfulness is greeted by a polite but firm reminder. Sanitation stations are positioned at the entrance to every venue and socially distanced seating arrangements complete the trio of very visible safety measures.
Somewhat less visible but ever-present is the continuous cycle of cleaning, meticulously completed by diligent crew members who have kept their pre-pandemic smiles and courteous demeanour. Equally subtle are the reassuringly regular temperature checks and one-way routing that navigates you through areas that might otherwise cause physical distancing challenges.
MSC Cruises has set an important health and safety benchmark as MSC Virtuosa kick-starts cruising in the UK. “This is an historic moment – we’re back!” said Antonio Paradiso, managing director of MSC Cruises UK & Ireland, during a champagne reception onboard MSC Virtuosa this week. “We’ve successfully completed the first cruise out of the UK and our passengers have had the time of their lives. And most importantly, they’ve felt safe.”
Paradiso is right to be proud of his company’s achievements, a cruise on MSC Virtuosa is a real treat – she’s a beautiful new ship full of innovation and wonder. We’re delighted to be cruising again and MSC Cruises has proved that even a fierce pandemic can’t supress this remarkable industry for long.