(11 a.m. EDT) -- In a move that shows MSC Cruises is taking a zero-tolerance approach to anyone transgressing its strict new health protocols, the line has denied boarding to a family who left an organized shore excursion, as well as embarking passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 shoreside.
The family of four left an organized shore excursion in Naples to explore on their own, directly contravening the line's new conditions of carriage that require passengers to stay with the group. Because they broke the "bubble" onboard, they were subsequently denied boarding, the line said.
"These organised shore excursions allow MSC Cruises to uphold the same high standard of health and safety as on board, for instance ensuring that transfers are properly sanitized and that there is adequate space for social distancing," the line said in a statement. "Tour guides and drivers also undergo health screening and wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)."
MSC Cruises is the first European big ship line to resume cruising in the Mediterranean, and made headlines with its new health protocols, which are the strictest at sea. As such, the entire cruise industry, as well as cruise fans who long to return to the sea, is watching the first sailing of MSC Grandiosa to see how it goes (follow along with Cruise Critic members, who are tracking it virtually).
So far, the health protocols, which include mandatory rapid result COVID-19 tests at check in, caught five passengers with positive antigen swab tests at embarkation in Genoa.
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"All of them, as per protocol, went through all steps of the successive secondary medical screening which included the RT-PCR (molecular) tests. All five eventually resulted negative at this second test," an MSC spokesperson said. "Additionally, a small number of other guests were denied embarkation as they did not meet requirements for boarding including residence in countries at high risk outside the Schengen area."
The embarking passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 shoreside during the first antigen tests then tested negative in the secondary RT-PCR tests and were able to embark.
In accordance with the protocol, the local health authorities in Naples requested to conduct the secondary RT-PCR themselves at their own lab. As this took place late in the day and result would not have been available by the time the ship was due to depart, the guests and their traveling party remained ashore and in isolation until they received the results.
Secondary tests came back negative for the guests. While the line offered them the option to join the ship in Palermo the following day, they decided to take the cruise the following week, again leaving from Naples.
Other safety protocols also include daily temperature checks, contactless booking via the MSC for Me wristband and app, a health questionnaire and increased and enhanced sanitation onboard.