MSC Cruises UK and Ireland boss outlines the company’s journey to restarting operations in the UK and what experience awaits guests this summer onboard flagship, MSC Virtuosa.
Very early on, at the start of the pandemic when we halted the fleet, our senior management team in Geneva started focusing on how we would be able to restart cruises in a safe and responsible way.
We established a taskforce and formed a blue ribbon panel of experts that devised a health and safety protocol which helped to set the standard for the industry, and in many cases our measures went above and beyond the guidelines set out by the experts and authorities.
Since last August, when our first ship returned to sea, we have safely carried more than 55,000 guests in the Mediterranean and we are now able to bring this expertise and knowledge to our operations in the UK.
This is one of the reasons we took the decision to welcome vaccinated and non-vaccinated guests – under the protection of our tried-and-tested protocols.
It is no surprise that we have seen so many cruise lines announcing their plans to sail in the UK this summer. British people really enjoy cruising and are ready for a much-deserved holiday. It also sends a really positive signal to other parts of the world that people want to cruise and it is possible to restart safely.
When working on our plans, we knew we wanted to do something special for British guests, so when the opportunity presented itself, we did not hesitate to deploy our latest and most innovative ship, MSC Virtuosa, in the UK.
This is going to be her inaugural season, and we are incredibly excited that our guests will be the first to experience her next-generation facilities this summer. Lockdown restrictions have made everyone dream of going somewhere different and getting away from it all, so holidaymakers are now ready to explore something new.
Since restarting cruises in Italy, Greece and Malta, we have seen our loyal fans come back onboard but we have also seen a large number of first-time guests.
This presents a real opportunity for us in the UK to showcase the incredible experience that especially an MSC Cruises holiday can offer – where else can you get the safety and confidence that comes with knowing that a robust health and safety protocol is in place but where you can also enjoy a huge variety of entertainment, dining and leisure activities all in one place?
And on top of all of this, our guests will also be able to go ashore and discover the different ports of call around the UK whilst in their safe social bubble.
While there may be some changes to life onboard – such as social distancing, reduced numbers in some of the venues or pool areas, or being served your food in the buffet rather than helping yourself – we are starting to see travellers become even more flexible too, as they understand they must play their part in a return to travel.
I am sure that when sales open we will see very positive trends, as the feedback already has been incredible and the combination of our newest ship with convenient ports of embarkation in Southampton, Liverpool and Greenock will mean our cruises are accessible for guests from all over the UK.
But this is just the start for our UK guests, and we hope that it is not too long before we welcome them onboard more of our ships in other parts of the world very soon.