First Mediterranean cruise since lockdown set sail after Covid-19 testing

The cruise began in Genoa and among the other port calls are Naples, Palermo and La Valletta in the western Mediterranean. Keystone/Luca Zennaro

The Swiss-registered MSC Grandiosa has become the first large cruise ship to set sail in the Mediterranean Sea following the lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

This content was published on August 17, 2020 - 12:07 with AP and AFP/ug

The ship with about 2,500 passengers on board left the Italian port of Genoa on Sunday for a seven-night cruise in the western Mediterranean Sea.

Passengers and crew had their temperatures checked and took Covid-19 tests as part of new health and safety protocols, the MSC Cruises 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.

For now, MSC was limiting its guests to the residents of Europe's 26-nation Schengen visa-free travel zone.

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

Reboot industry

The launch of MSC Grandiosa following a five-month break, is seen as a first step towards rebooting an industry that generates an estimated $150 billion (CHF136.3 billion) for the world economy, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

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.

More than 3,000 Covid-19 infections as well as at least 73 deaths, were registered on board cruise ships.

MSC Cruises is registered in landlocked Switzerland and is based in Geneva.It was founded in Italy in 1989. It is part of the Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world's second biggest container shipping operator.

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