Consumers holding loyalty club memberships from cruise lines, hotel groups and tour operators will be able to join a new MSC Cruises club which will automatically match their existing level of benefits.
Membership of the MSC Voyagers Club guarantees a 5% discount on cruise prices, with tiered ‘Classic’, ‘Silver’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Black’ rewards levels offering different on-board privileges.
The Italian line’s loyalty scheme also offers members access to special ‘Voyagers Selection’ sailings with additional discounts of up to 15%.
The tier level new members are assigned will match as closely as possible with the level of benefits they are receiving from their existing scheme, according to the line.
Members can then book direct or via a travel agent.
The ‘status match’ programme has already been introduced in countries such as the US, Italy, Germany and France and is being extended to the UK from October 26.
MSC Cruises executive director UK and Ireland, Giles Hawke, said: “The status match programme has already proved to be a great success in other countries so it is great news guests in the UK can now enjoy its benefits.
“The scheme is a great way of encouraging those who have not tried MSC Cruises to join us and understand what our Mediterranean way of life is all about while retaining all the perks and privileges they are used to.
“We are sure the initiative will help our trade partners by encouraging customers to try something new.
“Selling MSC Cruises is great for agents, who benefit from best-in-class commissions, including pre-purchased extras such as shore excursions and drinks packages.”
MSC Cruises is unlikely to return to offering a full season of ex-UK sailings until 2018, a year later than the line previously predicted.
Speaking at the steel cutting of new ship MSC Seaside (pictured), Gianni Onorato, chief executive of the line, said the line would be delayed returning to the UK by a year.
Initially there had been hopes that the brand would make a return in 2017, having pulled out this year.
Next year the line is offering a small number of sailings from Southampton, but Onorato said “internal commitments” had meant the operator would not have a ship sailing a full season from the UK until 2018.
He said: “we are going to look more deeply at the North American and UK markets, and then after that we will look at Asia.
“In the UK we want to be the reference cruise line for the Mediterranean, and we’re investing in that. As soon as we have growth in the fleet we will look to have a competitive ship in the UK market.
“I think we will have a one-year delay in coming back to the UK because of other developments internally.”
He said over time he would like MSC to rival domestic cruise lines such as P&O Cruises.
Giles Hawke, executive director for the line who is responsible for the UK market, said it was important for the line to grow and build revenues in the UK if it wants to secure a ship ex-UK.
Onorato also made some announcements about new features onboard MSC Seaside, which will sail year-round from Miami when it launches in 2017.
The ships will offer “super family plus” cabin for groups of up to 10 people, as the line looks to capitalise on the growth of multi generational and group cruises.
It will be “extremely kids-friendly” according to Onorato and will also have a kids-only restaurant. Onorato said MSC was a family company which always had families at heart.
He announced that there would be cluster cabins for groups of up to 10 people, with the super family plus option combining two balcony staterooms and an inside cabin.