On 18th March, 2015 MSC Splendida called at port of La Goulette, Tunis for its weekly call performed during the season from 17th December 2014 to 15th April 2015. The ship arrived with 3,714 guests and 1,267 crew-members on-board.
As is the case every time the ship calls Tunis, a shore excursion offered MSC Cruises’ guests the opportunity to visit the famous Bardo National Museum. During the visit at the museum, some of MSC Cruises’ guests were caught in the middle of a terrorist attack along with guests from Costa Cruises.
According to a statement from MSC Cruises: “As soon as the company heard of the attack and the fact that some of its guests were involved in this tragedy, stringent safety procedures were set in motion and the ship’s management called for the immediate cancellation of all on-going shore excursions and recalled all buses and their passengers back to the ship. Security on-board was also immediately raised to Level 3, its highest, by emergency protocol to ensure complete safety of all guests and crew members – the company’s number one priority at all times.”
In coordination with local, national and international authorities as well as embassies in Tunis and ground staff, MSC Splendida’s commanding officers worked towards organising the safe return of the ship’s guests, and assessing the situation in the city’s hospitals. Keeping guests aboard Splendida informed of the unfolding situation required constant synchronisation between all departments aboard and ashore and filtering of the stream of sometimes contradictory information from various sources.
“To allow all guests to promptly contact their families and loved ones at home and to provide reassurance about their wellbeing, all on-board telephone and internet systems were made available free of charge,” MSC Cruises told Cruise Arabia & Africa.
Just hours after the tragic events, MSC Cruises’ Crisis Team reached the ship in Tunis and set to work providing assistance and support to guests directly impacted by the attacks. MSC Cruises Executive Chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago, arrived in Tunis in the early hours of 19th March in order to make a close assessment of the situation and provide assistance to the victims and their relatives as well as consult with local authorities.
“Based on the communication made by officials authorities, MSC Cruises, its ownership and entire management team report with profound sadness that at the time of this announcement nine of its guests are reported to have lost their lives, 12 were injured, and six (two Spanish nationals, one Belgian, one British, one French and one Japanese) are still unaccounted for in conjunction with the tragic event at the Bardo Museum,” MSC Cruises said in a statement Thursday.
The cruise line stressed that these numbers are still subject to modification whilst official identification is on-going.
According to sources it would appear that of the victims, three were of Japanese nationality, two French, two Spanish and two were Colombian. The wounded include three Japanese nationals, one South African, one Belgian and seven French. All are currently being treated in various hospitals and are being assisted in person by members of the MSC Cruises Crisis Team, which was immediately sent to Tunis to provide on the ground support.
“At this tragic time, the MSC Cruises family wishes to extend its most sincere and heartfelt condolences to all those who were affected by this tragic event and are suffering as a result, in particular to the families and friends of those who lost their lives as well as the injured ones,” the Italian cruise line, a market leader in both the South African and Middle East cruise markets, said in a statement.