The number of cruise lines and cruise ships returning to sailing from the United States continues to grow. Yesterday, MSC Meraviglia departed Miami to mark the cruise line’s first passenger sailing from the U.S. since the shutdown nearly a year and a half ago.
Meraviglia is sailing a four-night cruise to Nassau, with an overnight stay at Ocean Cay, MSC’s private island. The line plans initial cruises of three and four-nights aboard the ship, with seven-night trips beginning in mid-September. In addition, MSC Divina is scheduled to be the line’s second ship to start back sailing when it sails from Port Canaveral in mid-September.
MSC is unique in that its main operations take place in other parts of the world instead of being a U.S.-centric cruise line. So while other cruise lines have just now started operations, or maybe have a handful of ships departing Europe and elsewhere, MSC has plenty of practice in this environment.
According to the company, they restarted operations a year ago in August 2020 with Mediterranean sailings.
“Many tens of thousands of guests have returned to enjoy a cruise at sea on an MSC Cruises ship since last summer, under the protection of the brand’s industry-leading health and safety protocol that is now also available for cruises out of U.S. ports,” the cruise line said in a press release.
In all, the cruise line plans to have more than half its fleet in operation by the end of the summer.
Notably, MSC is allowing both vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers to set sail aboard Meraviglia, in line with Florida law. All passengers are tested at embarkation, no matter their vaccine status. Social distancing is in place on the ship, masks are required for indoor areas, and there are new cleaning and sanitation standards on the ship.
Multiple Lines Return, But Challenges Remain
The return of Meraviglia from Miami represents another step in the cruise industry’s comeback. Multiple lines have returned in the past month, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Princess. While the total number of ships and passengers is still just a fraction of what it was before the pandemic, the restart so far has been promising.
What’s yet to be seen is how new cruise protocols will fare against the backdrop of more ships, more passengers, and more cases on land. The 7-day average number of U.S. virus cases has spiked sharply in recent weeks from about 12,000 cases per day in late June to about 80,000 today.
So far cruise lines that have returned seem to have done well in mitigating the number of cases on the ship. There have been positive cases found, but none have been reported to be major outbreaks. Even so, with a number of “breakthrough” infections reported among vaccinated people with the spread of the Delta variant, no one is putting their guard down as the industry makes headway in sailing safely.
After MSC, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney plan to sail their first return cruises August 7 and August 9, respectively.