(3:30 p.m. EDT) -- MSC Cruises continues to restart its European fleet, with a slate of new itineraries and numerous ships returning to service this summer.
The line plans to have three ships sailing the Western Mediterranean, three ships deployed in the Eastern Mediterranean and one ship in the U.K. The line is also placing three ships in Germany with slated June departures, should ports in that country open.
MSC Cruises does not have a vaccination requirement for any of the sailings, relying instead on the testing, masking and social distancing protocols that it used when it restarted in Italy in August. The line also requires guests to take ship-sponsored shore excursions, to keep passengers in a "bubble."
The cruise line did not put any specific nationality restrictions or call outs on the sailings, save round-Britain cruises on brand-new ship MSC Virtuosa, which is limited to U.K. residents. Those cruises start May 20 with mini-cruises from Southampton, calling at Dorset. On June 12, weeklong sailings from Southampton, Liverpool and Greenock begin, with calls in Dorset and Belfast in Northern Ireland.
That said, Americans and other nationalities currently face bans or limitations going to many countries in Europe, including Italy, Spain, Malta, France and Germany. Vaccinated international tourists are expected to be able to visit Greece, where several of MSC's ships will board, beginning in mid-May. MSC Cruises in the U.S. are canceled through June 30, 2021.
The current sailings on MSC Cruises leaving Italy are open passengers from the Schengen countries within Europe.
In the announcement, MSC CEO Gianni Onorato hailed the number of European ports that have committed to being open, and expressed confidence that Spain and France would open to cruise lines soon so those countries could be added to itineraries.
"We are extremely proud to be in a position to offer our guests and travel agent partners for the coming summer a growing choice of cruise holidays to a range of different destinations across the Mediterranean and Europe," he said.
"And to make it even easier and safer for our guests to reach our ships from closer to their homes, all our itineraries will feature additional ports of embarkation. In the Mediterranean alone, MSC Cruises will offer its guests up to 15 ports of embarkation."
In addition to MSC Virtuosa, Onorato pointed out that MSC Seashore is also a brand-new ship for the line.
"Their presence in this next phase of the return at sea of our fleet in the coming weeks represent our belief in the continued attractiveness for consumer of cruises as a holiday option," Oronato said. "This is why we have confirmed our plans of new builds for the coming years and are looking forward to a gradual return at sea of our full fleet in the coming months into the winter season."
Here is the breakdown of which MSC Cruises ships are going where, when, this summer:
- MSC Grandiosa. This ship, which has been out and sailing off and on since summer 2020, will continue its current weeklong itinerary, calling at the Italian ports of Genoa, Civitavecchia, Naples and Palermo as well as Valletta, Malta. The line plans to add the Spanish ports of Valencia and Barcelona "as soon as these destinations confirm their availability."
- MSC Seaside. The ship begins sailing May 1 from Genoa, calling at Siracusa in Sicily and Taranto in Puglia, as well as Civitavecchia and Valetta in Malta. The line will add Marseille if the port opens up. One exciting addition for these itineraries is that the line is introducing a private beach experience for passengers in Taranto.
- MSC Seashore. The new flagship from the line joins the fleet at the end of July. From August 1 until October 1, the ship will call in Genoa, Naples and Messina in Italy, as well as Valletta, Barcelona and Marseille. The ship is slated to go to Miami in November 2021 to sail in the Caribbean and The Bahamas, with stops at the line's private island Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.
- MSC Orchestra. Beginning June 5, the ship will embark in Venice and Bari, calling at Corfu and Mykonos in Greece, as well as Dubrovnik in Croatia.
- MSC Splendida. The ship begins sailing June 12 with embarkations in Trieste and Bari in Italy. Itineraries will call on Dubrovnik, Corfu and Kotor in Montenegro.
- MSC Magnifica. Starting on June 20, the ship will have several embarkation ports -- Venice, Bari and Piraeus (Athens). It will call on Mykonos and Split, Croatia.
In its announcement, the line noted that there was "current uncertainty regarding the timing for the reopening of local ports" in Germany. The summer season is delayed through June 15.
- MSC Seaview. The ship will replace MSC Virtuosa in Kiel, starting June 19.
- MSC Musica. The ship will be based in Warnemunde, starting June 20.
- MSC Preziosa. The ship is planned to depart from Hamburg, starting June 21.
The three ships will sail seven-night or longer itineraries to either the Norwegian fjords or the Baltic capitals.