- MSC Cruises plans to set sail from Durban on Monday, embarking on a 5-day journey to Mozambique’s Pomene.
- South Africa’s cruise season already got off to a shaky start when Europa docked in Cape Town on Tuesday and some passengers weren’t allowed to disembark.
- MSC Cruises initially said that it would welcome both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests on board.
- But in response to the Omicron variant, it now requires all travellers over the age of 12 to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
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The MSC Orchestra is due to embark on a 5-day voyage on Monday after a prolonged absence from South African shores. MSC Cruises previously said it would welcome both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests on board but has now changed its tune.
South Africa’s summer cruise season hangs in the balance. With the recent discovery of the highly mutated Omicron variant and a sudden surge in Covid-19 infections hastening the fourth wave, an anticipated move to a higher level of lockdown could leave cruise lines high and dry.
The first passenger ship to return to South Africa since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Europa, docked in Cape Town on Tuesday. What was meant to signal a joyous restart for the industry, fit with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, was overshadowed by Omicron and mounting international travel bans imposed on South Africa.
Passengers aboard Europa, which sailed from Namibia to Cape Town, have been transported directly to the airport for return flights home. Others were prohibited from disembarking and stayed on board for the return journey, according to Reuters.
Despite South Africa’s 2021/22 cruise season getting off to a shaky start with the restricted arrival of Europa, MSC Cruises remains confident of its 6 December restart.
The MSC Orchestra, with its 1,275 cabins, is set to depart Durban’s newly finished R200 million cruise terminal on Monday. Passengers can disembark in Pomene, Mozambique, on Wednesday, before completing the return journey to South Africa, arriving back in Durban on Friday.
In confirming the 5-day trip back in October, MSC Cruises announced that it would welcome both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests on board. Unvaccinated guests would, however, need to “undergo an antigen lateral flow test at the embarkation port” at a cost of R300 per person, with the exception being those under 18 years of age.
Following the detection of the Omicron variant, MSC Cruises updated its health and safety requirements on Wednesday. All guests for the 2021/22 local cruise season must now be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and also provide a negative Covid-19 PCR test result.
“South Africa is currently seeing an increase in infection rates ashore and to ensure the wellbeing of those on board our ship and at the communities we call, our preventative measures again demonstrates that health and safety is our number one priority,” said Ross Volk, the managing director of MSC Cruises South Africa.
All passengers older than 2-years-old aboard MSC ships will need to provide a certificate of a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours before embarkation. All guests older than 12-years-old will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Passengers between the ages of 12 and 17 years will be considered fully vaccinated if they have received one dose of an accredited vaccine. Those older than 17 are considered fully vaccinated against Covid-19 once they’ve received the full set shots more than 14 days before the start of their journey.
Test results and vaccination certificates must be presented at the cruise terminal before embarkation in either a paper or electronic format.
Unvaccinated passengers who were already booked to set sail on Monday, can opt to either postpone their holiday with a voucher for a future cruise at a later date or request a refund.
All passengers will also be required to have travel insurance, which covers any Covid-19 related risks, including cancellation, repatriation, and medical expenses.
Note: The information contained in this article is correct at the time of publication. Due to the nature of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resurgence of cases in South Africa, travel plans may be changed or cancelled at short notice.
(Compiled by Luke Daniel)