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Protocols seen by MSC Executive Chairman, by Harry Pope

I read a lot of reviews, and this came last week from Cruise Industry News – reproduced in italics. It is based in the US, I think, so I am not in competition as a lot of my articles are inevitably slanted towards the UK. However, I give credit here for excellent reporting. At the end I add my own thoughts.  

More than a year after MSC Cruises has restarted its first ship, operating cruise ships around the world is still “very, very complex,” said the cruise line’s Executive Chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago.

“We’re talking about crossing borders, we’re talking about health authorities having different approaches or different vision. (What if) a passenger comes from a country like Austria and goes across Italy and lands in Greece?” he said at the traditional “State of the Industry” panel in Miami Beach.

“The complexity of how to bring this protocol and actually offer (safe sailings) to our customer is incredible,” he added.

According to Vago, one of the significant difficulties for cruise lines today is not being able to confirm the itinerary to the customer.

“Every time you say, ‘I’m taking you on a holiday … you can see a sunset and the sea from your balcony’ – let’s not forget, a lot of people were hit very badly psychologically by this pandemic – ‘I bring you back.’ But sometimes I cannot even confirm what the itinerary will be, because things are changing all the time,” he said.

“With the vaccine, hopefully, some of these problems will go away, but that’s where we are today,” he added.

Vago also highlighted that when building new ships cruise lines have to take a lot into consideration.

“We need to understand that the ship will have to perform in 2030, so we need to understand what people will want in 10 years. What kind of food, what kind of facial, what kind of entertainment, what kind of technology? That is the capacity we need to have intercepted – what people will want – and also bring in technology for the environment, which is unique to this industry,” he said.

“Ships have this capability. This is why they’re sexy. This is why they attract attention all the time – for the good reason and the bad reason. Because, unfortunately, you can have a person jump from the third floor of any hotel to the parking lot, and you won’t even find it in the news. If you do it from a ship, you’ll be on the front (page) of CNN or CNBC,” Vago added.

Vago’s words bring a different perspective to cruising. What will you want from cruising in 2030? Will it be more of the same, or will there be other considerations. The introduction in recent years of ships that cater solely for the under 40, or even under 30, market, are an indication of future trends. People die., people don’t want to cruise, people become too infirm to cruise, it’s a sad fact, but at present it seems to me that the cruise market is still very buoyant, despite the world stage. What I said last week is relevant concerning viability, with ships sailing at one third capacity. How much longer can they do this. And destinations. Round the world cruises have barely resumed, because so many ports are still closed. This is something I suspect I will be returning to quite a lot in future.

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