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CONFERENCE REP


MSC ramps up protocols as Covid’s second wave grows


M


SC Cruises has seen “a very small number” of Covid-19 cases on board its ships


since it resumed sailing in the Mediterranean last month. The first major line to revive


operations in the Mediterranean since the pandemic has also increased the frequency of testing crew and passengers amid rising rates of infection across Europe. Bud Darr, executive vice-


president of maritime policy and government affairs at MSC Cruises, said the outbreaks were dealt with safely under the cruise line’s established protocols. “Everything was working the way


it was supposed to,” he said. “The authorities had a lot of confidence in working with us, and continue to keep everyone safe. But you have to expect that in this environment, you are


Bud Darr


to MSC’s protocols, to make them more “restrictive and protective”. “More tests have been added


during the cruises, along with the pre-embarkation tests that were already required,” he explained. Passengers who did not comply


with shore excursion rules were told to leave, Darr said, and new protocols had been added to maintain guests’ ‘bubble’ when in destinations. He described the changes as


going to have some Covid [cases].” MSC Grandiosa and MSC


Magnifica had been operating out of Italy, and calling at Malta and Greece, taking the line’s return “one step at a time,” added Darr. He said the second infection wave across Europe had prompted changes


“pretty technical and procedural” and “invisible to the guests”, adding that MSC would continue to “take a very hard line” with guests who breach protocols, noting the importance of showing them “we’re serious”. “Guests have been kept safe and


have given us really good feedback,” he said. “We have been able to find a balance between providing that experience and providing a health and safety environment.”


‘There will be a January wave season – prepare for it’


Cruise line bosses urged agents to plan now for the cruise sector’s ‘wave’ season to cater for pent-up demand. Jo Rzymowska, Celebrity Cruises’ vice-president and


managing director for the EMEA region, said “without a doubt” there would be a wave season in the new year. But she said 2021’s wave would be different because


marketing campaigns would mix messages about health and safety, such as reduced touchpoints on board, with the usual themes of destinations and onboard experiences. Rzymowska highlighted


social media as an important and cost-effective channel for marketing.


10 5 NOVEMBER 2020


Giles Hawke


Giles Hawke, chief executive of Avalon Waterways,


urged agents to analyse their databases and plan a two-track marketing strategy for wave. He said agencies could move to “above-the-line


spending” once they start to see some return, but warned retailers “don’t go mad on the first of January because we’ve got to see demand is there”. Bernard Carter,


Lucy Huxley Jo Rzymowska


Bernard Carter


senior vice-president and managing director at Oceania Cruises, added: “It’s about taking the low- hanging fruit – looking at the people who you’re talking with regularly… then you can start spreading the net wider.”


Agents urged to sell cru


Agents should book cruises with confidence, thanks to Covid-19 rules that have been agreed to make ships safe – despite the second wave of infections across Europe. That was the message from industry


figures speaking at the virtual Clia forum last week. David Dingle, chairman of Carnival UK,


said: “[Agents] should be selling with as much – and probably more – confidence, as they would sell any other holiday. “The moment we can start getting guests


Clia Cruise Forum 2020: Bullish confidence mixed with frustration char MSC


Magnifica


Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ Balmoral


travelweekly.co.uk


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