MSC Cruises has changed its policy for guests on UK sailings, as the Government prepares to relax its cap on passenger numbers.
The cruise line says all passengers over 18 must now have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days before embarking MSC Virtuosa, which is currently operating round-UK itineraries.
Under 18s don’t need to be vaccinated, but must provide a negative COVID test, which can be either a PCR or antigen test, prior to boarding. Under twos don’t need a test.
The new policy comes into effect on 3 July and is subject to review, depending on what happens with the Government’s update about coming out of lockdown on 19 July.
MSC said it has changed its policy because the UK Government is changing the regulations on maximum passenger numbers. The cruise line said the new rules were welcome ‘as it provides more options for British holidaymakers’.
Currently, cruise lines can sail at 50% full capacity or with 1,000 passengers, whichever is the smallest number.
But the Government plans to allow all ships to carry half the normal passengers. In MSC Virtuosa’s case, this would increase numbers to 2,444.
MSC said: “The UK Government has advised an important change to cruise operators who can now sail at an increased capacity of 50% under the condition that operators ensure their adult guests onboard are fully vaccinated, with exemptions for children under the age of 18 and certain adults that may not be eligible or able to be vaccinated.
“Guests are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after the second dose and proof of vaccination (eg NHS app, vaccination card, certificate etc) will need to be presented upon embarkation. Failure to produce evidence will result in refusal of embarkation.
“All exempt unvaccinated guests and children 2 years and older, will need to take a lateral flow (antigen) or PCR (molecular) swab test within 72 hours prior to the ship’s departure.
“Proof of a negative test result will be requested at the terminal and we will accept evidence such as an email, SMS or a printed document. This test is not required for fully vaccinated (any proof of vaccination needed) or under 2-year-old guests.”
MSC Cruises admitted its policy change would disrupt some passengers, but said the ‘capacity increase allows us to protect many more guests’ holidays which would have been otherwise affected by the recently announced delay of the easing of COVID restrictions’.
The cruise line is now in the process of contacting guests and will offer non-vaccinated customers the chance to reschedule or have a refund.
Cruise association CLIA told Travel Gossip it has not yet been updated on the Government’s planned changes.