MSC Cruises’ flagship MSC Grandiosa became the first major vessel to set sail in the Mediterranean in almost five months.

The ship left the Italian port of Genoa on Sunday on a seven-night itinerary, operating at 70% capacity with about 2,500 passengers on board.

All passengers and crew undertook Covid-19 testing before departure, with the ship set to call at Civitavecchia for Rome, Naples, Palermo and Malta.

MoreExternal experts to support MSC Cruises’ post-Covid protocols

MSC Magnifica is then due to resume operations in the eastern Mediterranean from August 29 with departures from Bari and Trieste to the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Athens.

The two ships will be the first to implement a new comprehensive health and safety protocol that has been approved by the relevant national authorities from the countries that the ships will call along their itineraries this summer, according to MSC Cruises.

Passengers on the first sailing received a free ‘MSC for Me’ wristband, which provides contactless options when on board such as opening the cabin or making payments and also helps to facilitate proximity and contact tracing if needed.

All crew have gone through stringent health screening measures, which included three Covid-19 tests in various phases as well as a period of isolation before commencing their duties.

Each crew member will then be regularly tested and their health monitored. 

Chief executive Gianni Onorato said: “It is a real pleasure for me to be here and sail on board the first of our ships to return to service and to be able to welcome back our guests. 

Our main goal during these last months has been to put in place the right measures that will protect the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit.

“But at the same time, we have worked to ensure that we are able to provide our guests with a cruise holiday that they can enjoy and still experience all of the elements that they know and love from entertainment and activities on board through to protected ashore visits.” 

Costa Cruises is to follow with a series of departures by two ships from September 6, but restricted to passengers from Italy.

MoreExternal experts to support MSC Cruises’ post-Covid protocols