Explorations From Home: AAA Member Choice Vacations European Spotlight

Europe is filled with awe-inspiring cities, historic wonders, natural beauty, and unforgettable moments. Whether you want to travel by train, cruise the riverways, or drive the beautiful countryside, Europe promises to deliver everything you’re looking for. Join AAA Member Choice Vacations for a spotlight tour of what Europe offers travelers in 2021 and beyond.


All Eyes on Cruising's Return to the Mediterranean

Come August 16, the waters of the Mediterranean Sea will once again be peppered with cruise ships. While the United States continues to halt cruise operations, this region of the world is preparing to welcome voyagers back to seas and ports. With the region being the first to market, all eyes are on the Mediterranean.

As of now, departure is only for residents of Europe’s 26-nation Schengen Area, according to new stipulations set forth by the Italian government. During the cruise, people will not be allowed off the ship onto Italian soil unless they are part of tightly controlled organized excursions with fellow passengers only and minimum contact with the general population. It is this type of regulation that will offer learnings into how the rest of the world can begin to welcome ocean liners once again. The MSC Grandiosa will be the first to test the waters with a seven-night cruise that will stop in Genoa, Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples, Palermo and Valletta, Malta. Itineraries have been designed according to the accessibility of the ports, reducing — where possible — the need for guests to use public transport or flights, and have been planned in conjunction with the authorities.

Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman commented, “During the pause in our operations we focused on developing a comprehensive operating protocol that builds upon already stringent health and safety measures that have long been in place onboard our ships. We have worked closely with the relevant EU-level, national health and other authorities from the countries that MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica will call along their Mediterranean itineraries to develop a comprehensive set of procedures designed to protect the health and safety of all passengers onboard our ships as well as ashore to ensure that local communities feel comfortable welcoming our guests.”

MSC Cruises’ new operating protocol has been designed to protect the health and safety of guests and crew as well as the local communities that the Company’s ships visit. For this reason, it meets and goes beyond guidelines provided by key international and regional regulatory and technical bodies, as well as regulations set forth by the governments in the countries in which MSC Cruises’ ships operate. 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. MSC Cruises has worked to encompass every aspect of the guest’s journey from the moment of booking, embarkation and life onboard through to disembarkation and the return home, while preserving the uniqueness of the guest experience.

All passengers and crew will be tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to board. Passengers will need to fill out a form and have their temperature taken followed by an immunofluorescence test to detect the potential for the virus. If they pass that test, they can then check-in and get their cruise card. They will be greeted with social distancing and over 100 sanitizers, plus the Grandiosa is equipped with a new air conditioning system. Each passenger will have to have their temperature checked daily. Port excursions will be for passengers only and all drivers and guides will have to be tested for Covid-19.

If the Grandiosa’s voyage proves successful, the Magnifica will offer a seven-day cruise that extends to the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus.

Many cruise companies are introducing onboard enhancements such as having the heating, ventilation and cooling systems draw in more air from outside, enhancing filters and even adding UV lights that are successful in killing the coronavirus, according to some studies. Yet those on land at the ports of call are also nervous. No cruises have yet been scheduled to dock in Venice, which was in one of the hardest-hit regions in Italy at the start of the pandemic. There, the “No Big Ship” protest group has launched an appeal to never allow ships back in the port despite the drastic dip to tourism the city has felt in part to their absence.

On Shore, passengers’ movements will be monitored and checked, and people who disembark the cruise ships who are not on a scheduled tour will not be allowed to re-embark again. Cruise companies will need to assure that no passenger will disembark if they are not on a scheduled tour.

As you prepared for your return to travel, you may have questions. AAA Travel Agents are here to help. To speak to an agent, please call 1-800-222-7448.