MSC Cruises unveil their incredible Starship Club
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On the Thursday evening MSC Cruises’ new flagship MSC Virtuosa departed UK shores, Mr Paradiso recalls “many smiling, happy faces”, as well as some tears of joy. “I’ve seen many, many customers being emotional because it means so much to be onboard of a cruise ship again after 15 months,” he told Express.co.uk.
“All of our guests were having such a great time while respecting the measures put in place to keep everyone safe.”
Indeed, it was these new measures that meant ships could finally set sail after more than a year of travel bans. And it is the success of these new rules which Mr Paradiso says have made him “confident” more restrictions on travel can be eased in the coming months.
“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, becoming more and more brighter if I’m honest,” he said.
“We hope that the situation, Europe first and all around the world will continue to prove that vaccines are making miracles.”
While MSC cruise guests were still able to enjoy many of the traditional aspects of a luxurious cruise – an array of restaurants boasting global cuisines, opulent bars and dazzling stage productions – all of these are conducted in line with Covid-safe regulations.
This begins with pre-departure testing, which MSC have already made progress towards streamlining.
“The first embarkation took a tiny bit longer but I was still very happy with the results because the average time to board the ship, including a swab test which is the most time-consuming part of the embarkation process, was one hour and 10 minutes,” explained Mr Paradiso.
Since then, MSC staff managed to slash this time to just 37 minutes by their second sailing.
“We’ve made a few tweaks because we’ve learned a lot. Also terms of guests flow and paperwork that we have we have to check – passport, travel insurance, proof of vaccinations, etcetera,” continued the cruise boss.
“So we have improved our already smooth embarkation process.”
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Once onboard, guests can expect social distancing in public areas and face masks where this cannot be achieved.
“What I keep on saying to everyone is that yes there are some small changes, but the overall onboard experience remains exactly the same,” he explained.
“Yes, when there are public areas or when they are walking from one part of the ship to another, guests are kindly asked to wear face masks.
‘If they use the lifts we don’t accept more than four people at a time in our lifts just to make sure that there’s plenty of distance between each customer.
“But other than that, the second you sit at a restaurant or you sit at the bar, you can remove your face mask and just enjoy your cocktail or your meal.
“I think people, after a couple of hours, actually forget that we have all of these measures in place because I think we’re so used to them after the 14 or 15 months of Covid.”
Combined with pre-embarkation testing, Mr Paradiso says these measures create a “safe bubble onboard the ship”.
“We want to make sure that everyone is safe at all times,” he said.
“All in all, excluding a few changes here and there, the overall experience hasn’t changed at all.”
With the first sold-out four-day sailing having proved such a success, welcoming 1,000 passengers to enjoy their first cruise holiday since the first lockdown, Mr Paradiso believes it will encourage travel on a wider scale.
In fact, he believes these changes could be just weeks away.
According to Mr Paradiso, though, while the social distancing and testing requirements in place may be a little different to cruises of the past, they act as proof “it is safe to go on holiday”.
“MSC Virtuosa was a message of hope for everyone, not only the cruising industry but for the wider travel industry,” he said.
“It’s all about restarting again and building that confidence. That’s why it was so important for us you know to get the first few sailings right, just to prove to the world that it’s actually safe to go on a cruise ship and it is actually safe to go on holiday.”
He continued: “You may need to respect some safety measures, but I think it’s about time we start travelling again. I’m optimistic and I’m confident that things will just get better and better.
“With Virtuosa we’ve proven to the world that travelling is safe if you just follow some very basic rules, and I’m hoping that from June 21 many of these restrictions will be lifted.”
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