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First Mediterranean cruise sets sail after passenger coronavirus tests

Passengers arriving in Rome from four Mediterranean countries receive instructions by airport staff
Passengers arriving in Rome from four Mediterranean countries Sunday line up at Leonardo da Vinci airport to be tested for COVID-19.
(Andrew Medichini / Associated Press)

Cruise ship passengers had their temperatures checked and took coronavirus tests Sunday so that they could set sail on what is being billed as the first Mediterranean cruise after Italy’s pandemic lockdown.

The cruise ship company MSC has made the procedures part of its new health and safety protocols for crew members as well as passengers. The MSC Grandiosa, which was christened last year, set sail from the northern Italian port of Genoa on Sunday evening for a seven-night cruise in the western Mediterranean.

Anyone testing positive or with a fever or other COVID-19 symptoms was denied boarding, the company said. Guest must wear face masks in elevators and other areas where social distancing is not possible. The crew spent time in quarantine before the start of the cruise.

Earlier this month, the Italian government gave its approval for cruise ships to once again depart from Italy’s ports but limited them to sailing with 70% capacity.

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MSC declined to say how many passengers were sailing on this cruise. Among the port calls for the Grandiosa, MSC’s flagship, are Naples, Palermo, Sicily and Valletta, Malta.

Malta is one of four Mediterranean countries that Italy now requires travelers arriving from to have virus tests.

For now, MSC is limiting its customer list to residents of Europe’s 26-nation Schengen passport-free travel zone.

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MSC said every guest and crew member on board would be given a wristband that “facilitates contactless transactions around the ship as well as providing contact- and proximity-tracing.”

Cruise ships and the business they bring to many Italian cities during port excursions make up an important segment of Italy’s vital tourism industry. An estimated 12 million cruise ship passengers arrived or departed from Italian ports last year or made port calls in Italy, according to industry figures.


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