MSC Cruises hopes to restart cruises in the Mediterranean on two ships this summer but the itineraries will not be available to passengers from the UK & Ireland.

The proposed restart, which is still subject to final approval, will see the line’s flagship MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica offering seven-night itineraries in the western and eastern Mediterranean respectively.

The line hopes to operate 14 ships for the winter season and 19 around the world by next summer. However, the first cruises will be available only to residents of Shengen countries.

Antonio Paradiso, MSC Cruises UK & Ireland managing director, said: “Whilst UK & Irish guests aren’t yet able to cruise with us, there are some great opportunities available for UK & Irish agents for cruises this winter and into summer 2021.

“We have 14 ships sailing in winter 20/21 increasing to 19 ships by August 2021 visiting destinations across the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Northern Europe and South Africa and South America, as well as some excellent value Grand Voyages.

“We hope that the restart announcement coupled with sharing our stringent and robust health and safety operating protocol will inspire confidence in consumers who will seek out travel agents for further information and ultimately to book a cruise holiday.”

He added: “‘MSC Cruises restart in the Mediterranean would be a huge step forward both for the company and the cruise industry as a whole.

“We have been working tirelessly for months with our task force, blue-ribbon Covid Expert Group as well as government organisations and Clia to ensure that any restart to operations is accompanied by health and safety operating protocol that both builds upon already stringent health and safety measures that have long been in place on board our ships, as well as meeting and often exceeding guidelines provided by key international and regional regulatory and technical bodies.”

MSC outlined its restart plans as it hailed health and safety protocols which it hoped would “set a new industry standard”.

New measures include a testing system for guests prior to embarkation, daily testing of crew and guests and reduced capacity onboard.

The line said: “MSC Cruises has been working closely with the different authorities in the countries where the company’s ships will call, to develop a comprehensive protocol. A dedicated task force, with the input and support of leading external medical experts, developed a robust protocol with new MSC Cruises-specific operating procedures that go beyond the actual regional and national guidelines and effectively set a new standard.

“Additionally, Rina, the independent maritime certification corporation, has verified that the protocol meets the European Maritime Safety Agency (Emsa) Guidance, which incorporates additional health standards including those from the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action.”