Cruise lines should consider adopting social distancing policies onboard upon the restarting of operations, according to the UK boss of MSC Cruises, who assessed how the sector could adapt and bounce back following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Antonio Paradiso, managing director UK and Ireland, said that although the industry had experience of handling various crises in recent years, it should “understand what other measures should be put in place” as a result of coronavirus.
“As a cruise industry, we are working on new protocols because – let’s face reality – we will be entering into a new world and a new world for cruising,” he told TTG during a Facebook Live interview on Thursday (16 April).
“I think at least in the first phase [of operations resuming], we should be respecting social distancing. How that is going to look, we don’t know yet, but we will be working hand-in-hand with governments and our colleagues in the industry to understand want needs to be done.”
Paradiso said he believed MSC’s 2020 season could recover despite having to suspend sailings until 29 May.
“I don’t think  it’s a write-off yet. June, July and even August sailings potentially could be affected – it’s a very fluid situation, so in three weeks from now things could get better. I still believe that all those sailings in autumn and winter are relatively safe at the moment,” he said.
“It goes hand-in-hand with the regulations in each of the countries we operate in, and our business is heavily tied to the aviation industry, to fly people to different destinations to board ships, so there are so many factors affecting our decision-making.
“I’m still rather optimistic. Those sailings in autumn, including September, are still relatively safe. We shall see but I’m seeing more and more customers booking cruises for 2021 and that’s really encouraging.”
Assessing how coronavirus would impact MSC’s future plans for fleet expansion, Paradiso said he could foresee “inevitable delays” in the launch of new ships due to the temporary closure of shipyards, but maintained the line was “not planning on changing our plans any time soon” surrounding its order book and growth aspirations.
Asked what approach MSC would take with its fleet when operations were resumed, he suggested the line would gradually redeploy ships.
“If I had to guess today I would say we would phase it. I don’t think we will resume operations for all of our 18 ships at the same time. We need to make sure you base your ships in the right region.
“So I assume for a period of time there is going to be a soft reopening and then gradually you will get fully back on track. That’s the way I feel things are going to happen in the next few months.”
Paradiso said despite it being “early days” since MSC began offering its 125% future cruise credit, he had seen around “80-85%” of consumers willing to utilise it and go on holiday at a later stage.
“We are encouraging customers to give us a second chance to showcase our beautiful product and experience. Whether that be winter 2021 or summer 2021, we shall find out. So far I have seen that demand is mainly focused on summer 2021 with some bookings for December and January sailings.”