MSC Cruises has confirmed details of its winter 2020/2021 season across all its regions, including its South African itineraries, which begin operations around the third week in November.
Ross Volk, md of MSC Cruises South Africa, told Travel News that MSC was considering all its options for the launch of its operations in South Africa. “We are engaging with government at all levels to ensure that all factors have been considered. These include extensive health and safety protocols. We are confident that by the time of our first sailing, the situation ashore with the COVID-19 pandemic will have improved sufficiently to allow people to start thinking about taking a holiday. Should these extreme circumstances change over the coming months, we will respond with an applicable solution that embraces our ethos of health and safety first.”
In South Africa, MSC Orchestra (replacing MSC Musica), will offer a range of cruises from either Durban or Cape Town to destinations including Maputo, Portuguese Island, Pomene, and Port Elizabeth, as per the original itinerary. MSC Opera will operate its planned itinerary, with a range of cruises from Cape Town or Durban. The destinations include Port Elizabeth, Portuguese Island, Maputo, Marion Island, Walvis Bay, and Lüderitz. Full details of the itineraries are available on the MSC South Africa website.
There will also be a 14-night New Year cruise on MSC Orchestra, departing from Durban and incorporating Portuguese Island; Nosy Be, Madagascar; Port Victoria, Seychelles; and Port Louis, Mauritius, returning to Durban. The starting price is R27 416 per person sharing, including mandatory port fees.
Ross said MSC was committed to bringing a variety of special-interest cruises to the 2020/21 season. “We are always exploring new ideas, and have a few in the pipeline, which we will announce as the season unfolds, but for now guests can enjoy their old-time favourites such as OH Ship, Bok Radio and The Bhangra Boat.”
In the release, the company said a new comprehensive and enhanced health and safety protocol was being developed that would cover all aspects of the cruise, from booking through to disembarkation and the return home. It will include enhanced sanitation measures, guidelines for life on board, and enhanced medical facilities and health screenings for guests and crew. The full details of the new measures would be announced by MSC soon, the release said.
Ross said the cruise line was confident that, with the new precautionary health and safety protocols, booking trends would progressively pick up. “It has been a difficult time in the last few months for holidaymakers to decide when is the right time to book for their future cruise holiday, especially with air travel restrictions and much-reduced flight capacity. So, inevitably the short- to medium- term outlook is relatively soft but our expectation is that demand will rise progressively as restrictions are lifted and people will start to focus again on their holidays, among other social activities.
“Our South African guests have generally been proactive and moved their bookings, and we’ve seen a substantial uptake from guests where we’ve offered a credit voucher for a future cruise.”
Meanwhile, MSC has announced a further extension to the ‘halt of operations’, until September 15, of ships operating from US ports to the Caribbean.
Guests affected by cancelled cruises will receive a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) by July 13 from MSC. FCC means guests can transfer the full amount paid for their cancelled cruise to a future cruise of their choice – on any ship, for any itinerary – through to the end of 2021. The temporary ‘halt of operations’ until July 31, on MSC’s other ships in the other regions still applies.