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MSC Updates Bellissima Grand Voyage Itinerary to Asia



MSC Cruises has updated its Grand Voyage Itinerary for the forthcoming 28-night sailing scheduled to begin on March 21, 2020.

Port visits to Shenzhen, China; Hong Kong; and Keelung, Taiwan have been replaced with alternative calls, including Laem Chabang/Bangkok, Thailand; Phu My/Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and an extra day in Kobe, Japan. The ship will now also call Sir Bani Yas Island, United Arab Emirates, instead of Khor Fakkan, UAE.

The ship will leave as scheduled on March 21 from Dubai with calls in the Gulf including Abu Dhabi and Sir Bani Yas Island.

The journey then continues east with calls in Colombo, Sri Lanka; Phuket, Thailand; Langkawi, Penang, and Port Klang/Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Singapore.

The ship will then head to the newly added ports, including Laem Chabang/Bangkok, Thailand; Phu My/ Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and then guests can take advantage of the added overnight in Kobe, Japan, before the ship heads to its final port, Yokohama, Japan.

New regulations have been put into place to ensure the health and safety of passengers and crew. Currently, there are no cases of coronavirus onboard any of MSC Cruises’ ships and these new measures are additional steps to keep guests and crew safe.

The new rules include the following:

—Anyone who has traveled to, from or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau in the past 30 days, or visited or transited via airports, will be denied access to the ship. The same rules apply to such guests’ travel companions (parent, spouse, child, siblings, or a companion who shares a stateroom).

—Guests with signs or symptoms of illness such as fever (equal or greater than 100.4 degrees) or feverishness, chills, cough or difficulty breathing will be denied embarkation. The same rules apply to their travel companions.

—Anyone who, within 14 days before embarkation, has had close contact with, or helped care for, anyone suspected or diagnosed as having coronavirus, or who is currently subject to health monitoring for possible exposure to novel coronavirus, will be denied boarding.

—MSC Cruises will continue to conduct preboarding screening necessary to effectuate these preventative measures.

—Guests with a Chinese passport who have not traveled from or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau, in the past 30 days, and who are in good health, can access the ship. However, authorities in certain countries are temporarily not allowing holders of a Chinese passport to travel into their territories. Holders of Chinese passports are advised to check for any travel restrictions that may apply. Please note this list may change based on future government regulations.

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Holland America Ship Given OK to Cross Panama Canal



A Holland America Line cruise ship carrying four dead passengers and dozens of others who are sick – including two who tested positive for the coronavirus – has been given permission to pass through the Panama Canal and return to Fort Lauderdale.

The Zaandam had initially been denied entry into Chile on its South American itinerary and then denied the chance to pass through the Canal to get back to its home port in Florida, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

The media outlet said the boat is currently anchored outside Panama Canal waters, where healthy passengers are being transferred to Holland America’s Rotterdam.

The Panama Canal Authority said in a statement it “supports all efforts being made to ensure an expedited return home for cruise passengers and crew on Holland America’s Zaandam.”

Holland America Line released a statement saying “We are aware of reported permission for both Zaandam and Rotterdam to transit the Panama Canal in the near future. We greatly appreciate this consideration in the humanitarian interest of our guests and crew. This remains a dynamic situation, and we continue to work with the Panamanian authorities to finalize details.”

No timetable was given for when the ships would return to Fort Lauderdale, nor did Holland America offer any information regarding whether the number of sick passengers had grown past the previous update of 138. It normally takes 72 hours to travel from the west side of the canal to the east and then back to Fort Lauderdale.

One American citizen is believed to be among the four deceased passengers. The passengers were ordered to self-isolate in their staterooms since March 22.

Whether the Zaandam will be allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale for the same humanitarian reasons that officials allowed the ship to pass through the Panama Canal remains to be seen. The Sun-Sentinel noted that several Broward County commissioners were alarmed at the idea of the Zaandam docking at Port Everglades.

Commissioner Michael Udine told the paper Sunday morning that Port Everglades notified county commissioners late Saturday with its mandates for the passengers, including the following:

All illnesses and conditions must be accurately disclosed and documented; the cruise line, at its expense, will provide all protective equipment to all responders; temperature readings are required for all disembarking crew and passengers; and the cruise line, at its expense, will arrange for private ambulance transportation, among other issues.

And, “no less than 24 hours in advance of the start of debarkation, the cruise line will present a security plan for review and approval… how passengers will debark orderly, safely and in compliance with current health advisories (i.e. social distancing). Failure to maintain good order may result in an immediate suspension of the debarkation until the situation is under control,” according to the guidelines.

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