MSC Cruises has updated its vaccination policy to ensure MSC Virtuosa can welcome thousands more passengers on board its British Isles sailings this summer.
The line, which up to now has not limited its sailings to passengers who are fully-vaccinated, says fresh government guidance will allow larger ships to sail at 50% capacity as long as passengers have had both vaccine doses.
Up to now, the official government policy has been to limit sailings to 1,000 passengers or 50% of a ship’s capacity, whichever is the lowest, until the easing of domestic restrictions in the UK, due on July 19. Travel Weekly has contacted the Department for Transport for confirmation.
The change could allow 6,300 MSC Virtuosa to sail with up to 3,150 passengers on board for the rest of the summer, more than three times the previous 1,000 limit, which has been in place since it began its UK domestic cruise season on May 20.
MSC said that it is now contacting passengers to check their vaccination status and offer them different options, including rescheduling, refunds and exemptions, where required.
The line said: “The UK government’s decision to increase the number of guests permitted onboard round-the-UK cruise ships to up to 50% of passenger capacity is to be welcomed as it provides more options for British holidaymakers.
“The condition of this change is that all adult guests must be fully-vaccinated and our focus was on inconveniencing as few guests as possible in this rapidly changing environment. It will, however, understandably frustrate a number of our guests who had already booked their holiday with us for voyages but are not yet fully vaccinated.
The line also added: “While we regret that this change to the capacity limits will disrupt their travel plans and our ability to accommodate some guests as originally planned, the capacity increase allows us to protect many more guests’ holidays which would have been otherwise affected by the recently announced delay of the easing of Covid restrictions.
MSC’s decision brings it line with other lines – such as P&O Cruises, Marella Cruises and Royal Caribbean International – that state passengers must have received both doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine before boarding.
P&O Cruises said it was “considering the options” as news of the policy change emerged.
A spokesperson for the line said: “We are aware of the updated government guidance regarding the number of guests permitted on the UK coastal cruises this summer and we are considering the options.
“Should there be any change to our current stance then we will advise guests accordingly.”
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said: “We are aware of a change in government guidance for cruise for those carrying only fully vaccinated guests. Under previous guidance, cruise ships could sail with 1,000 guests or at 50% capacity, whichever was lower.
“As our ships carry less than 1,400 guests, this change in guidance does not change our position and we will still sail at 50% capacity until the guidelines are relaxed, expected to be on July 19.”