Former guests on the MSC Grandiosa received emails (copy available here) this weekend from the Italian Ministry of Health advising them that a case of COVID-19 was confirmed on the cruise ship which left from Palermo on October 7th.

The email in question had been posted by former cruise guests, who indicated that they received the communication from the country’s Ministry of Health. The guests posted the email on various Italian cruise pages, including the MSC Grandiosa Fan Club page on Facebook.  Several members of the page commented that they received the same email.

The email (translated) stated that:

Dear Mrs/Mr:

“We are contacting you from the Ministry of Health, as a result of the identification of a CONFIRMED CASE OF COVID-19 aboard the MSC Grandiosa ship that left from Palermo on October 7th and where you were embarked. In the following 14 days from the date of the exposure (October 7th 2020) besides remembering you the classic prevention measures: to frequently wash your hands, coughing and sneezing directly on a paper tissue or in your elbow crease, we ask you to monitor your health conditions, in case you experience symptoms, even if they are mild (particularly cough, rhinorrhea/congestion, respiratory distress, muscular pain, anosmia/ageusia/dysgeusia, diarrhea, asthenia you must immediately contact your family doctor or your pediatrician, and report the possible exposure you could have had on the ship.”

The person who sent me this information, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained that the MSC Grandiosa had been on a seven-day cruise which boarded guests in a number of Italian ports, including Genoa, Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples and Palermo. The person commented that “I think is really a mess here in Italy with numbers increasing day by day – it’s like a bomb countdown.”

It is currently not publicly known whether the confirmed positive case involved a guest or a crew member. It is less than clear whether the Ministry of Health identified the people who it sent the emil to through contact tracing or whether the Italian health department simply notified all of the guests who traveled on the ship during the cruise in question. It is unknown whether anyone receiving the email has exhibited symptoms and tested positive, or whether they may be infected but not symptomatic yet.

Last week, the MSC Gransdiosa sailed on another seven-day itinerary which left Genoa on October 11th and returned to that port yesterday evening. There are several reports that after calling on Palermo, the MSC ship sailed to Valetta, Malta. However, the Maltese maritime authorities denied the vessel permission to port and disembark guests for an shore excursion due to a suspected case of coronavirus among the crew members, according to Ship Mag. Malta Ship News reported that the ship entered Valetta’s Grand Harbour early Friday morning, a little after 6:00 a.m. and then left port shortly before noon without discharging any passengers.  The ship then sailed back to Genoa where it arrived yesterday.

It is not known whether the crew member tested positive or whether there is a connection between the confirmed positive finding arising out of the October 7th sailing and the suspected case last week involving a cruise member.

One thing appears certain regarding MSC’s (as well as Costa’s) new protocols is that they apparently do not require the cruise line to publicly disclose that there has been a confirmed positive COVID-19 case during a cruise. Last week, we reported that there had been eight positive cases confirmed on the Costa Diadema which also sailed from an Italian port. Costa did not publicly reveal this information. Only through reporting by the Italian press did the public learn this information. At a minimum, the next group of passengers who are booked to sail on a ship with infected guests or crew members should be notified of a confirmed case. They should also have the right to cancel their cruise with a full and immediate refund of their cruise fares.

Just last Thursday, the “Points Guy” Gene Sloan interviewed MSC cruise executive Ken Muskat on Twitter in a marketing effort orchastrated by MSC to suggest that its protocols were tested and sufficiently safe for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift its current no-sail order which extends to October 31st.

At the time of the interview, MSC knew that at least one prior person on the MSC Grandiosa had been confirmed positve with COVID-19. There apparently is no legal requirement that cruise lines, which have a reputation for a lack of transparency, disclose such basic health information to the public.

We last commented on the MSC Grandiosa ten days ago when we reported that performers (dancers and singers) were crowded on stage together and guests were filmed crowded together drinking and dancing in front of a band on the pool deck of the ship. Some of the guests were wearing masks, but some were clearly not. There was no semblance of social distancing in the videos shown of the deck party.

There is a surge of COVID-19 cases happening in Europe, including Italy, at the moment. It remains dangerous to travel during this pandemic. Congregating in bars, restaurants, night clubs and dance parties on crowed cruise ships is a good way to become infected and spread the virus back to the residents of the home-ports of the cruise ships and home communities of the infected guests.

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Image credits: MSC Grandiosa – By kees torn – Vertrek, CC BY-SA 2.0 commons / wikimedia; screen grab – Cruise Passion