A tale of two cruise lines

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Two European businessmen created two different cruise lines in the 1990s. Both have been successful in their own terms, but one formula for success has a lot more scale than the other one.

The two lines are Silversea Cruises and MSC Cruises. Silversea was formed in 1994 by building two new ships straight out of the gate for the luxury market. It was marketed primarily, if not exclusively, in North America.

MSC took a different route. Created from the leftovers of the Lauro Lines in 1995, MSC operated used, some would say very used, tonnage. Like Carnival Cruise Line, it deployed its older ships to cater to the mass market. It was marketed primarily to Europeans, with a few winter itineraries in the Caribbean.

Silversea’s first newly built ship, the Silver Cloud, was a thing of beauty. It was instantly competitive with other luxury vessels.

MSC’s first newly built ship didn’t arrive until a decade after the Silver Cloud was delivered and it was a takeover of an option that couldn’t be exercised by the Greek line Festival Cruises when it went into bankruptcy.

Since launching, Silversea has acquired a fleet of nine ships, with two more vessels on order.

With the delivery of the MSC Seaview, MSC has 15 ships in its fleet, with another nine on order through 2026.

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Last week, Silversea and Royal Caribbean announced an agreement in which Royal will get a 67% equity stake for $1 billion. Silversea gives up its autonomy as a private company in exchange for continued growth and investment in its brand.

MSC is investing in its own future with a $10.5 billion newbuild program, and its autonomy is not in doubt.

MSC took a slower, less glamorous route to success but in the end, it is the company that stands independent.

Two major differences steered MSC and Silversea towards different outcomes. The first is that MSC Cruises was a side project for MSC chairman Gianluigi Aponte, whose main business, container shipping, made it easier to secure the financing that kept MSC’s order book growing.

The second is that MSC operates in the low-price, high-profit segment of the cruise business. Catering to the mass market may not be where the glamour is, but it is where the money is. The finances of both MSC and Silversea are private, so it is perhaps unfair to say one is more profitable than the other.

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MSC Seaview Christened in Genoa

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MSC Christening in Genoa.

The MSC Seaview was christened on Saturday in Genoa in front of MSC executives, VIPs and key travel partners.

The Seaview will spend the summer in Europe before the 4,140 guest ship moves to Brazil for the winter.

Gianluigi Aponte, MSC Group’s founder and executive chairman as well as the shipowner, attended the ceremony together with the Aponte and Aponte-Vago families.

From the christening of the MSC Seaview

The christening ceremony was hosted by the star of Italian TV, Swiss-born Michelle Hunziker who welcomed to the stage the “father of Italian blues” Zucchero Fornaciari.

TV star Lorella Cuccarini hosted a special moment on stage, and Italian children’s choir, Piccolo Coro Dell’Antoniano, performed as the UNICEF ambassadors.

Also taking to the stage was the young talent of belcanto, Matteo Bocelli, son of the world-famous Andrea Bocelli who sang at the christening of MSC Seaside, MSC Seaview’s sister ship in Miami last December.

Godmother Sophia Loren cut the ribbon to officially name Fincantieri-built MSC Seaview, the 13th MSC Cruises ship.

Gianluigi Aponte and Cardinale Bagnasco

Also present at the ceremony was Ramon Freixa, the Spanish two Michelin-starred chef who has now extended his partnership with MSC Cruises to develop his first restaurant at sea onboard MSC Seaview. Pan-Asian chef Roy Yamaguchi, attended his second MSC Cruises’ ship christening to celebrate his second restaurant at sea, with his first launching on MSC Seaside. Other stars in attendance included Spanish model and actor Jon Kortajarena, Brazilian presenter and actor Giovanna Ewbank and French television personality Ariane Brodier.

MSC Cruises Officially Receives MSC Meraviglia

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MSC Meraviglia

 MSC Cruises officially took delivery of MSC Meraviglia.

During the ship’s flag ceremony, the ship received her official flag and blessings for good fortune. The ceremony was attended by Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic and other high-level dignitaries from the French government.

MSC Cruises said it estimates that its total investment at STX France from 2003 to 2020 will amount to over 7 billion euros, effectively making the company the country’s number one foreign private investor.

Following her christening ceremony, which will take place in Le Havre on June 3, MSC Meraviglia will start her inaugural season sailing the Western Mediterranean.

“MSC Meraviglia’s coming into service marks a key milestone in the history and future of our Company,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises. “She represents the first realization of our long-term vision for further significant growth, which, in its first phase, culminated with MSC Cruises becoming two years ago the number one cruise brand across all of Europe, while on its way to further global growth.”

“Above all, we must celebrate the work of everyone: from all the workers of our partner STX France to MSC Cruises’ New Builds Team, each and every supplier and sub-supplier who has contributed to turning our vision into reality as well as everyone at MSC who has worked ashore and on board on this amazing project. A galvanized team of up to 3,000 workers a month and over 400 suppliers, built over the past three years the largest and most technologically advanced cruise ship ever constructed by a European ship owner. This is worth celebrating!” added Vago.

Marcon at STX France

“Delivering a ship is always a time of great emotion for the shipyard: it is the culmination of three years of intense work for our employees and those of our partners, who have spared no effort to deliver on the exact date and in the quality conditions desired by our client MSC Cruises, this first ship of the Meraviglia class,” said Laurent Castaing, CEO of STX France. “Benefiting from our advances in R&D from the “Ship of the Future” program supported by ADEME, this prototype is a great achievement that we can all be proud of and which allows us to look confidently at the next three ships.”

During today’s flag ceremony, the shipyard’s pennant and the French flag were lowered, accompanied by the French national anthem, before Laurent Castaing, CEO of STX France, formally handed the ship over to MSC Cruises’ owner Gianluigi Aponte.

Aponte then gave command of MSC Meraviglia to Master Raffaele Pontecorvo before the ship’s flag and MSC Cruises’ pennant were raised.

The honor of cutting the ribbon fell to the ceremony’s godmother, Zoe Africa Vago, daughter of MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman and Alexa Aponte-Vago, MSC Group’s CFO. After the traditional breaking of the bottle of champagne, three blasts from the ship’s siren signaled the end of the ceremony.