Italy may be in Easter lockdown, but the party’s on at sea – Times of India

ABOARD THE MSC GRANDIOSA: Italy may be in a strict coronavirus lockdown this Easter with journey restricted between areas and new quarantines imposed. But a couple of miles offshore, company aboard the MSC Grandiosa cruise ship are shimmying to Latin music on deck and sipping cocktails by the pool.
In one of the anomalies of lockdowns which have shuttered resorts and resorts round the world, the Grandiosa has been plying the Mediterranean Sea this winter with seven-evening cruises, a lonely flag-bearer of the international cruise trade.
After cruise ships have been early sources of extremely publicized coronavirus outbreaks, the Grandiosa has tried to chart a course by the pandemic with strict anti-virus protocols authorised by Italian authorities that search to create a “health bubble” on board.
Passengers and crew are examined earlier than and through cruises. Mask mandates, temperature checks, contact-tracing wristbands and frequent cleansing of the ship are all designed to forestall outbreaks. Passengers from exterior Italy should arrive with unfavorable Covid-19 exams taken inside 48 hours of their departures and solely residents of Europe’s Schengen international locations plus Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria are permitted to ebook underneath Covid-19 insurance coverage insurance policies.
On Wednesday, the Grandiosa left the Italian port of Civitavecchia for its weeklong Easter cruise, with 2,000 of its 6,000-passenger capability and stops deliberate in Naples and Valletta, Malta, earlier than returning to its dwelling port in Genoa.
Passengers welcomed the semblance of normalcy introduced on by the freedom to eat in a restaurant or sit poolside and not using a masks, even when the virus continues to be a gift concern.
“After a year of restrictive measures, we thought we could take a break for a week and relax,” stated Stefania Battistoni, a 39-yr-previous instructor and single mom who drove all evening from Bolzano, in northern Italy, along with her two sons and mom to board the cruise.
The pandemic has plunged international cruise ship passenger numbers from a report 30 million in 2019 to over 350,000 since July 2020, in line with Cruise Lines International, the world’s largest cruise trade affiliation representing 95% of ocean-going cruise capability. Currently, fewer than 20 ships are working globally, a small fraction of CLIA’s members’ fleets of 270 ships.
The United States might be amongst the final cruise ship markets to reopen, presumably not till fall and never till 2022 in Alaska. Two Royal Caribbean cruise strains that usually sail out of Miami opted as a substitute to launch sailings in June from the Caribbean, the place governments are desperate to revive their tourism-primarily based economies.
MSC spokeswoman Lucy Ellis stated optimistic virus circumstances have cropped up on board MSC ships, significantly throughout the fall surge.
“The important thing is we have never had an outbreak,” she said. The Grandiosa is equipped with a medical center with molecular and antigen testing facilities, as well as a ventilator.
Extra cabins are set aside to isolate suspected virus cases. Because of the contact tracing wrist bands, if a passenger tests positive, medical personnel can identify anyone with whom they were in contact. Once the situation is clear, anyone who is positive is transferred to the shore.
According to an independent consulting firm, Bermello Ajamii & Partners, just 23 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed on ships since the industry began its tentative relaunch last summer, for a passenger infection rate of 0.006%.
But cruise industry critics say the risk isn’t worth it and add that cruise companies should have taken the pandemic timeout to address the industry’s longstanding environmental and labor problems.
“All massive cruise ships burn big volumes of the dirtiest, most cost-effective gasoline accessible,” said Jim Ace of environmental group Stand Earth, a member of the Global Cruise Activist Network. “Cruise ship corporations might have used the Covid shutdown to handle their impacts on public well being and the surroundings. Instead, they scrapped a couple of of their oldest ships and raised money to remain alive.”
On board, though, passengers are relishing the chance to enjoy activities that have been mostly closed in Italy and much of Europe for a year: a theater, restaurant dining, duty-free shopping and live music in bars.
The rest of Italy is heading back into full lockdown over the Easter weekend, with shops closed and restaurants and bars open for takeout only to try to minimize holiday outbreaks. In addition, Italy’s government imposed a five-day quarantine on people entering from other EU countries in a bid to deter Easter getaways.
“Let’s say that after such a very long time of restrictions and closures, this was a selection accomplished for our psychological well being,” said Federico Marzocchi, who joined the cruise with his wife and 10-year-old son Matteo.
The cruise industry is hoping for a gradual opening this spring.
Cruises are circulating on Spain’s Canary islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa, including the company AIDA catering to German tourists. Costa Cruises, which with MSC is one of Europe’s largest cruise companies, will resume cruises on May 1, with seven-night Italy-only cruises. Costa plans to begin sailing in the western Mediterranean from mid-June.
Britain is opening to cruise ships in May, with MSC and Viking launching cruises of the British Isles, among several companies offering at-sea “staycation” cruises aimed at capturing one of the most important cruise markets. The cruise industry is hoping Greece will open in mid-May, but the country hasn’t yet announced when it will reopen tourism.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “framework” for resuming cruises in the U.S., but the industry says the health agency hasn’t spelled out the details that companies need to operate their ships. Once the CDC provides technical requirements, industry officials say it takes about 90 days to prepare a ship for sailing.
The cruise companies complain that last fall’s CDC framework is outdated and should be scrapped. They say it was issued before vaccines were available and before the restart of cruises in Europe, which they say have safely carried nearly 400,000 passengers under new Covid-19 protocols. And they complain that cruising is the only part of the U.S. economy that remains shuttered by the pandemic.
The Cruise Lines International Association trade group is lobbying for an early July start to US cruising.
“Cruisers like to cruise, and they’ll go the place the ships are crusing,” said Laziza Lambert, a spokeswoman for the trade group. “The longer cruises are singularly prohibited from working in the United States, the extra different locations in the world will profit from the optimistic financial influence generated by an inflow of passengers.”

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