(5:15 a.m. EDT) -- Costa Deliziosa has become the first Carnival Corp. ship to restart cruising since operations paused in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2,260-passenger ship set sail from Trieste, northern Italy, yesterday on a week-long round-trip cruise calling only at Italian ports and operating at less than a quarter capacity with just 500 Italian passengers.
Its departure comes just weeks after MSC Cruises also relaunched operations onboard MSC Grandiosa -- offering an Italy-only itinerary, initially for Italians only and sailing at around 70 percent capacity.
"We’re delighted to be able to welcome our guests on board again after more than five months without cruising and we're also happy to be restarting operations right here in Italy. Our decision to resume responsibly with Italian cruises for Italian guests is particularly significant for us, since we’ve believed and invested in this country for more than 70 years as the only cruise company flying the Italian flag," said Group CEO, Costa Group & Carnival Asia Michael Thamm.
"For the last few weeks, we’ve been working together with the authorities on implementation of the new health procedures that will allow our guests to make the most of their cruise experience while ensuring maximum safety. Meanwhile, we're continuously monitoring the situation with a view to gradually reintroducing cruising on more ships from October, with itineraries extended also to include guests from our other European markets."
The ship has set sail under a strict new set of health and safety guidelines, in accordance with the procedures set out in the Costa Safety Protocol, a document developed by the company together with a panel of scientific experts, containing new operational measures in response to the COVID-19 situation.
These include staggered taggered entrance times; online check-in and at the terminal -- a temperature scan, health questionnaire and antigen rapid swab test.
Passengers will not be cleared for boarding unless and until they have tested negative, and or any suspected case of COVID-19 it will be possible to perform an additional test with a molecular swab test.
Prior to embarking, crew members have also been tested with molecular swab at intervals and been quarantined for 14 days. In addition, each member of crew will have a monthly swab test.
Onboard, passengers can expect the following enhanced health protocols:
- Social distancing signage
- Repeat performances of the live shows for smaller audiences;
- a switch from buffet restaurants to seated dining in the restaurants;
- the seating capacity in theaters, show lounges, bars and restaurants has been revised respect minimum distance;
- staggered entrance for some facilities such as the spa, pools and kids' miniclub with a limited number of people allowed in at any one time.
Also, there will be enhanced cleaning and sanitization in all areas on board, including cabins, while the shipboard health services have been expanded. Other health and safety measures are the use of face masks whenever necessary, hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the ship and the introduction of self-service clinical thermometer kiosks.
And, exactly the same as MSC Cruises, all shore excursions will be ship-only on sanitized transport -- passengers will not be able to get off and do their own thing -- an issue which has led to MSC Cruises having to bar passengers from getting back onboard in some cases.
After Costa Deliziosa, which will be departing from Trieste until the end of the year, Costa Cruises' next ship due back in service is Costa Diadema, scheduled to leave from Genoa on September 19. Like Deliziosa, the ship will only be calling at Italian ports and carrying guests resident in Italy, with stopovers in Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples, Palermo, Cagliari and La Spezia.
Then from October, flagship Costa Smeralda, followed in December by Costa Firenze -- the company’s new ship under construction at Fincantieri's Marghera yard.