Dear Valued MSC Family Member
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy 2021 from the team members at Shosholoza Ocean Academy and your family at MSC Cruises.
Much has happened since our last communication with you.
In August 2020 MSC Cruises became the first major cruise line to resume sailing following the global shutdown of the industry in March caused by the pandemic ashore.
MSC Grandiosa set sail on Sunday 16 August from Genoa in Italy with guests on board for the first of her 7-night voyages in the Western Mediterranean.
This was achieved following approvals from the relevant authorities in Italy, Malta and Greece of an industry-leading health and safety protocol designed to protect the wellbeing of all guests, crew and communities to be visited.
This protocol, which was designed at the outset to adapt to a fluctuating health situation ashore, was recently strengthened in line with the current evolution of the pandemic in mainland Europe, with a series of enhanced rigorous measures.
The additional measures include the following:
- Additional on-board antigen testing for COVID-19 of all guests mid-way through their cruise which are on top of the existing pre-boarding universal testing for all guests;
- Frequency of testing of all crew during their time on board increased from twice-a-month to weekly, which is in addition to pre-boarding testing for all crew and other ongoing health monitoring measures;
- Increased frequency of on-board sanitation, in particular of public areas and high touch points;
- Tightening of the definition of close contact for tracing purposes, reducing the time that individuals are in contact from 15 minutes to 10 minutes
The MSC Cruises protocol is based on nine key elements, many of which have been adopted by other cruise companies, the Cruise Lines Industry Association and international airlines and airports.
- Testing of all guests at least twice per voyage
- Testing of all crew at least three times before embarkation and weekly on board
- Only protected shore excursions, as organised ‘social bubbles’
- Ventilation with HVAC fresh air
- Contingency response that does not burden local health infrastructures
- Isolation space on board and tracking and tracing including close contacts
- Physical distancing – aided by reduced capacity of the ship
- And COVID-19 prevalence monitoring
As a result of the extension of the restrictive measures related to movement within Italy, as set out in the latest decree from the Italian government preventing access to and use of ports of embarkation until 15 January, MSC Cruises did however announce that it is forced to temporarily halt the cruises of MSC Grandiosa & MSC Magnifica.
MSC Grandiosa will resume her planned weekly cruises on January 24th, leaving every Sunday from Genoa and calling the Italian ports of Civitavecchia, Naples, Palermo and Valetta in Malta, with embarkation available in each port in Italy.
From 14 February MSC Magnifica will also resume her operation departing from Genoa for 11-night cruises designed to enable guests to discover the West and Eastern Mediterranean in Italy, Greece and Malta.
In South Africa, MSC Cruises is also working with all the relevant authorities in the South African government for the possible re-opening of local cruises. Pending authorization from all the government authorities involved, initial embarkations of limited numbers of crew on MSC Orchestra in Durban have started in order to prepare the vessel for the possibility of a resumption of cruising. To date, MSC Cruises has not received final feedback in this regard.
For all those crew remaining at home, the following reminders regarding your eventual re-embarkations on the remainder of the fleet when, pending authorization from all the government authorities involved in various countries around the world, operations eventually fully resume:
- If your contract was interrupted due to the halt of operations and you signed off before the end of your contract with your freeze deal, you will be prioritized for re-embarkation when MSC Cruises resumes full operations.
- If you completed your contract during the halt of operations or have not yet embarked during 2020/2021 you will be rotated into the schedule according to the operational needs once MSC Cruises resumes full operations.
- If you are a candidate crew member, having been approved for embarkation but no contract has been provided, you will potentially be scheduled into the rotation, after first giving priority to returning crew as outlined above. You should consider your embarkation on hold indefinitely. As re-opening plans develop further and more vessels return to service, we will be in touch with further information.
Please note that, if your contact details are up to date, there is no need to contact your agency. We will be in touch with you the moment we receive a new engagement proposal/contract for you.
While at home, keep your documents current as much as possible – such as your passport, etc. If they are expiring soon, please do not spend money on renewing your STCW or Medical Certificates. Only renew them when we contact you about an engagement proposal/contract. Please note that a new medical certificate procedure has been implemented by MSC Cruises. The Shosholoza Ocean Academy administration team will provide you with details of this procedure when they contact you regarding an engagement proposal.
We thank you for your continued commitment and sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are keeping healthy and safe.
Chief Operations Officer
Shosholoza Ocean Academy