MSC Cruises’ MSC Virtuosa will not be able to sail the original itinerary planned for the ship’s September 26, 2023 departure, due to poor weather forecast in Ireland.
Instead, the ship will shift ports of call and is adding a substitute port for a more comfortable and safer experience for everyone aboard.
The original schedule had the ship enjoying a day at sea before a visit to Cork, Ireland, followed by a stop in Portland, England before returning to Southampton on Saturday, September 30.
MSC Cruises has reached out to booked guests to let them know about a necessary itinerary change due to the extreme weather.
Now, the ship will still enjoy the first day at sea, but will not be visiting Cork on Thursday. Instead, the stop in Portland has been moved up to Thursday, and MSC Virtuosa will now visit Zeebrugge, Belgium on Friday, September 29. The return to Southampton should not be impacted.
Any shore tours booked through the cruise line for Cork will be cancelled and refunded, while excursions for Portland will be moved to the new visit day if possible. If a tour cannot be moved, it will be cancelled and refunded.
Because the weather conditions may be unpredictable, it is possible there may be additional changes to the itinerary. Guests will be given further information upon embarkation on Tuesday.
The 181,541-gross ton MSC Virtuosa is one of the largest ships in MSC Cruises’ fleet, able to welcome 4,842 guests when booked at double occupancy, or as many as 6,334 passengers when all berths are filled. Also on board are 1,704 international crew members to deliver outstanding service.
The severe weather system – now named Storm Agnes – is forecast to bring wind gusts as high as 60-80 miles per hour (96-129 kilometers per hour) to coastal areas, including southern Ireland – exactly where Cork is located. Steady winds will be in the range of 10-25 mph (16-40 kph).
The storm is expected to move northeast across Ireland on Wednesday and into Scotland on Thursday. In addition to strong winds, heavy rain is also forecast, with some areas expected to experience localized flooding.
Strong winds, heavy rain, and swells can make port navigation difficult and unsafe, depending on the exact wind directions and a cruise ship’s orientation. Because the Meraviglia Plus-class MSC Virtuosa features 16 decks, the ship’s extreme height can make it extremely susceptible to wind influences.
When large cruise ships are docked during heavy winds, there is a risk of lines breaking and the ship moving adrift. This happened most recently with P&O Cruises’ Britannia in August while the ship was in Palm de Mallorca. After breaking free, the ship collided with a tanker due to uncontrolled drifting.
In that instance, it was a sudden squall that caused the ship to break free, a circumstance that wasn’t able to be avoided as with forecast bad weather.
Earlier this year, MSC Cruises’ MSC Musica broke free of its moorings while docked in Brazil, again due to a sudden storm. The ship was quickly secured again without any reported damage or injuries in that incident.
Cruise lines always keep the safety of guests, crew members, ships, and port communities as a top priority. While making itinerary changes is never ideal, it is occasionally necessary when weather conditions are not safe for the ship’s navigation or for docking procedures.
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