MSC Cruises has secured government approval to resume cruising from South Africa and will restart its cruise itineraries in the country on December 6th.
MSC Cruises was forced to cancel its 2020/21 South African cruise season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has secured permission to sail this year’s season.
The approval from the South African government comes just weeks before MSC Cruises would have usually begun its cruises out of Durban for the South African summer, giving the cruise line time to put a plan in place.
“We are delighted to have received confirmation and approval from the government that cruising and with it our local season can proceed,” said Ross Volk, Managing Director, MSC Cruises South Africa.
“I believe that our return to sailing will provide a welcome boost to the South African economy in terms of direct and indirect employment, as well as offering safe and relaxing cruise holidays,” he added.
The Ship and Itineraries
MSC Orchestra will be deployed to South Africa, sailing 2, 3, 4 and 7-night cruises out of Durban and Cape Town until May 11th, 2022.
The ship recently underwent a major refurbishment programme and replaces MSC Musica that was originally earmarked for South Africa in the upcoming cruise season.
MSC Orchestra will sail 41 roundtrip cruises from both Durban and Cape Town. In Durban, she will be using the new KwaZulu Natal Cruise Terminal.
Highlights of the season include Pomene Bay in Mozambique (a marine safari experience complete with its own beach club), Portuguese Island and other destinations in Southern Africa.
“We have worked co-operatively since last year with all of the relevant authorities, ports and destinations to demonstrate that our new health and safety protocol can ensure the wellbeing of guests, our crew and the communities that MSC Orchestra will visit during the season,” added Volk.
“We now look forward to receive details of the health and safety guidelines that will allow us to finalise our protocol for the start of our sailing programme,” he said.
COVID-19 Safety Protocols
MSC Cruises currently plans to welcome on board both guests who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as well as unvaccinated guests, but this may change based on the requirements of either the South African government or any of the other countries that MSC Orchestra is set to visit during the season.
The South African government to date has not mandated passengers be fully vaccinated before a cruise holiday nor have other countries in MSC Orchestra’s Southern Africa itineraries.
MSC Cruises in a statement, however, urged its guests to be fully vaccinated before their cruise for their own well-being and that of other passengers, the ship’s crew and communities in the destinations that MSC Orchestra will visit.
All passengers – both vaccinated and unvaccinated – will be required to take a COVID-19 RT-PCR test within 72 hours of their cruise departure and provide proof of a negative result in order to board.Unvaccinated guests over the age of 18 years will additionally have to undergo an antigen lateral flow test at the embarkation port costing R300 per person.
MSC Orchestra is equipped with a 24/7 Medical Centre staffed by professional doctors and nurses and has a contingency response plan agreed in collaboration with the relevant authorities ashore.
Additional health and safety measures include extended sanitation on board and the wearing of face masks in indoor public areas or where social distancing cannot be guaranteed.
To find out more about the embarkation requirements and the health and safety measures here.
How Embarkation Will Work
Health screening of all guests in the cruise terminals will include a temperature check and a health questionnaire.
Guest embarkation flow will be managed by assigning guests with a specific arrival time, which will be indicated on their cruise ticket. MSC says guests will be asked to respect the timing and will not be allowed to enter the terminal until their time slot, in order to comply with the local social distancing regulations.
Medical and Travel Insurance Policies
All guests will be required to have an insurance policy to cover COVID-19 related issues such as cancellation, interruption, repatriation, quarantine and medical assistance and related expenses.
Guests can choose MSC Cruises’ new Hollard COVID-19 Protection Plan that will provide coverage before, during and after their cruise. The plan covers cancellation charges as well as medical and related transport expenses. For further details on what the cover entails click here.
Changes to the Previously Scheduled SA Season
MSC Cruises says it has had to cancel its previously scheduled South African cruises during November, while the planned 14-night New Year’s Eve cruise during the coming season has been modified into three 4-night cruises and one 2-night sailing, as a result of a lack of available ports in the original itinerary.
All guests whose reservations are affected by the cancellation are eligible for a future cruise credit voucher to the value of their current cruise package as well as compensation in line with the length of their cruise.
MSC Cruises was the first major line in the world to resume operations in August 2020 when MSC Grandiosa began cruising in the Mediterranean Sea.
The health and safety protocols outlined for the South African cruise season are in-line with the provisions implemented aboard its fleet, which currently has 12 ships back in service in North America, Europe and the Middle East.