Cruise ship MSC Grandiosa berths in the Port of Valletta, Malta, on Aug. 21, 2020. The MSC Grandiosa, a Meraviglia Plus-class cruise ship owned and operated by MSC Cruises, sailed into the Port of Valletta on Friday morning, becoming the first cruise liner to arrive since the island closed its ports in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Jonathan Borg/Xinhua)
VALLETTA, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- The MSC Grandiosa, a Meraviglia Plus-class cruise ship owned and operated by MSC Cruises, sailed into the Port of Valletta on Friday morning, becoming the first cruise liner to arrive since the island closed its ports in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Passengers on the cruise ship are limited on their movements as the port authorities imposed their own restrictions to take preventive measures and control the spread of the virus. Passengers are not allowed on the island independently but only on guided excursions.
There are more than 1,300 passengers on board, with some 400 of them expected to go on six separate guided excursions in Malta, local newspaper Times of Malta reported.
Cruise ships had been banned from Malta since March when the first COVID-19 cases were detected. With similar action having been taken elsewhere, cruise operators had canceled all trips for several months.
Valletta Cruise Port said cruise ships are operating under a strict and comprehensive health and safety protocol that applies both on land and at sea.
It said MSC's new operating protocol goes beyond guidelines provided by key international and regional regulatory and technical bodies. It includes testing for all passengers and crew prior to embarkation.
MSC restarted its operations with MSC Grandiosa which sailed out of Italy's Genoa on a seven-night Western Mediterranean Cruise. The ship has a maximum occupancy rate of 70 percent, allowing for 10 square meters of space per passenger. It visited Rome, Naples and Palermo and will return to Genoa on Sunday.
The arrival of the cruise ship coincided with news from the Maltese Health Ministry on Friday that the coronavirus had claimed the country's 10th victim -- a 72-year-old man who had pre-existing medical conditions.
Malta currently has nearly 700 active coronavirus cases. In total, it has so far reported more than 1,500 coronavirus cases since March.