MSC saves the day after pre-cruise Covid testing options fall short

LabQ Diagnostics, a Covid-19 test provider in New York and New Jersey, was still advertising a maximum 48-hour turnaround time for results (and an average of 24) on its website when my family and I took the required PCR test ahead of boarding the MSC Seashore on Dec. 18.

LabQ had been my backup plan. The local urgent care I usually go to, which had reliably returned results after 24 hours, closed early due to a practitioner’s family emergency, leading me to a wait behind 20 cars at LabQ. 

When we hadn’t gotten results by the morning the cruise was to depart from Miami, I was nervous. I called LabQ, where the hold robot said there were 103 people ahead of me in the queue. Not a good sign.

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It seemed the only choice I had was to find a rapid PCR testing facility near the Port of Miami that would be able to produce the results in a matter of hours and cost hundreds of dollars per person. I decided to check with MSC to see if it had a better option.

As it turned out, it did. At that time, MSC was providing terminal testing to guests in need of it, like us, on the day of their cruise.

“For some time now, we’ve had the capabilities in place for testing embarking passengers in our cruise terminals and ensuring a certain turnaround on the results, as the ship’s departure depends on it,” a spokesperson told me.

Recently, due to the omicron surge, MSC began giving all guests an antigen test at the pier prior to boarding on top of its existing PCR test requirements, free of charge. 

As for LabQ, my result came in six days later (negative), more than halfway though our sailing. The New York attorney general had also issued a warning to the company to stop misrepresenting its turnaround times. 

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