UPDATE: MSC Cruises has backtracked on their initial statement and has suspended the the 2019/2020 cruise season.
The last cruise is currently underway - it departed on Monday - and will continue its normal schedule until it returns on Friday.
“This is not a decision we took lightly but under the current circumstances, the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities ashore – including our employees and their families – must come first," says Ross Volk, managing director of MSC Cruises South Africa.
"As a family company with over 300 years of maritime tradition, we felt that this was the right decision to make.”
Each passenger on the remaining cruises will receive communication in the coming days. Passengers can refer to the website for future updates.
Due to the volume of passengers affected by this announcement they ask that everyone be patient.
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As cruise liners around the world are postponing their scheduled trips, MSC Cruises will still go ahead with their cruises in South Africa.
A cruise from Durban is still departing on Monday, and they don't foresee any changes made up until the end of the cruise season in April.
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According to their statement, they have been notified by the Port Authority that Cape Town and Durban ports will remain open amid the country-wide travel restrictions.
The crew and staff have been implementing the following since February to help fight the spread of Covid-19:
- Guests and crew from all nationalities are required to fill out a pre-embarkation questionnaire. Any guest that has travelled to, from or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Europe, South Korea, United States, UK, Canada and Iran, or visited or transited via these airports, will be denied access to the ship. The same rules will apply to the guests travel companions (including a parent, spouse, child, sibling, or any companion who will share a cabin).
- Mandatory non-touch thermal scans will be conducted for all guests and crew before embarkation for every cruise operated by MSC Cruises globally. Passengers with signs or symptoms of the illness such as fever (equal to and over 38 C°) or feverishness, chills, cough or difficulty with breathing will be denied embarkation. The same rules apply to their travel companions, as above.
- Any guest who, within 14 days before embarkation, has had close contact with or helped care for anyone suspected or diagnosed as having coronavirus, or who is currently subject to health monitoring for possible exposure to coronavirus, will be denied boarding.
- Elevated deep-sanitation will be carried out on every ship in the line’s entire global fleet.
- If guests develop fever symptoms once on board, they will be isolated in their cabin and the same measure applies for their travel companions and close contacts on-board, including guests staying in the same cabin and family members, as well as any crew member who may have had contact with these guests.
- Any guest on board can have their temperature checked at the Medical Centre should they have any concerns in this regard.
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"Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, MSC Cruises has been closely monitoring the public health and safety situation in each of the regions in which its ships sail. We have been continuously consulting with both international and local health authorities in order to implement the necessary recommendations and measures", says the company in their statement.
"The safety of our passengers is of paramount importance. MSC Cruises undertakes to keep you informed of any further developments from relevant authorities and the port of Durban and if any changes are made to your cruise, this will be communicated with you."
The cruise sector had been heavily impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, especially after a few cruise ships experienced widespread outbreaks onboard and were denied access to ports for days on end, exacerbating conditions.
Outside of South Africa, MSC Cruises put a stop to all of its US-based operations, including cancelling cruises in Europe and the Middle East.
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