Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning 2022

6 8 PL ANNER PERSPECTI VE Protecting people and places Rebecca Gibson asks Marialuisa Iaccarino how MSC Cruises has enabled guests to continue enjoying immersive onshore experiences at ports and destinations worldwide while mitigating the risk of Covid-19 When MSC Cruises began planning its return to service in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, head of shore excursions Marialuisa Iaccarino was faced with her greatest challenge to date: developing new protected ‘social bubble’ shore excursions. “Going ashore is a really important and enjoyable aspect of a cruise holiday, so we wanted to ensure that we had measures in place to protect both our guests and the local communities we visit,” she explains. “We knew that we could control all health and safety measures onboard our ships, but we were also aware that we were potentially risking guests becoming ill and bringing the virus back onboard if they went ashore to places that did not have the right hygiene and sanitisation measures in place.” Drawing on 20 years of experience, Iaccarino and her team devised strict protocols that surpass the requirements of international authorities and vetted every tour operator, transfer provider and individual attraction. “We ensured that they put the right health and safety measures in place,” says Iaccarino. “It was painstaking work but worth it to enable our guests to go ashore safely.” For now, guests are only permitted to participate in shore excursions organised by MSC Cruises and they must also comply with a series of mandatory health and safety protocols. For example, they must undergo temperature checks before and after shore excursions, sit in assigned seating while travelling onboard buses and coaches, and follow social distancing guidelines, wear face masks and sanitise their hands regularly while visiting attractions. In addition, MSC Cruises staggers shore excursion departures, ensures tour buses are thoroughly cleaned and sanitised after every use. and reserves exclusive areas at onshore attractions. “Tour guides and drivers all follow the same strict protocols to keep guests safe too,” says Iaccarino. “They must have their temperatures taken, provide negative Covid-19 test results, wear personal protective equipment and regularly sanitise their hands. Of course, we hope that this will change in the future as the pandemic evolves and local health situations improve.” Rules regarding shore excursions are made clear to guests when they book the cruise and are reiterated upon embarkation, as well as before and during every shore excursion. Any passengers who do not comply are refused re-embarkation. “We ensure that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind about the consequences of breaking our protected shore excursion bubbles, and all the tour staff are MSC Cruises has created protected shore excursions to enable guests to explore destinations safely