(3:30 p.m. EDT) -- MSC Cruises announced Thursday it will resume cruise operations aboard MSC Seaside in the Mediterranean, with the first departures beginning May 1, 2021 -- less than two weeks from now.
Formerly based in the Caribbean on sailings from Miami, MSC Seaside will become the second ship to resume cruise operations in the Mediterranean, following the successful restart of MSC Grandiosa last year. The May 1 restart will also mark the first time MSC Seaside has sailed the Mediterranean.
MSC's new seven-day itineraries will include calls on Genoa, Valetta, Siracusa, Taranto and Civitavecchia, the port for Rome. Both Siracusa and Taranto are new ports of call for MSC, with the latter offering an exclusive beach visit for passengers aboard MSC Seaside.
Three lidos (beaches) will be made available on the Marina di Taranto exclusively for MSC passengers on the day the ship is in port, and "bubble transfers", as MSC is calling them, will take passengers directly from the ship to the beach and back at set times throughout the day.
MSC still mandates the use of ship-sponsored shore excursions for all passengers, along with mandatory negative PCR testing, social distancing and masking while onboard.
"As we continue to offer one of the safest ways to take a holiday, we knew that we needed to make sure that we delivered on all of the elements of a summer holiday and this meant finding a way to enable our guests to also spend a day at the beach, whilst ensuring that the same high standards of health and safety were implemented ashore as they are on board," MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato said.
"We have worked to privatize three lidos with all the facilities of a beach club so that our guests can enjoy this beautiful stretch of coast in Puglia, close to Taranto. With this, we have also established a blueprint for this type of experience, and we will now work to introduce more private beach experiences at other destinations this summer."
International cruisers, however, will have to wait a little longer to set sail with MSC. Right now, itineraries aboard MSC Seaside and MSC Grandiosa in the Mediterranean are only open to passengers from Schengen (European Union) countries and citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania.
MSC Cruises said in a statement its U.S.-based sailings would not restart until given permission to do so by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.