MSC Seaside offers sights, experiences unlike any other

T1204SEASIDE5_TS_HR.jpgMSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato in the two-story Top Sail Lounge, part of the MSC Yacht Club luxury enclave on MSC Seaside. Photo Credit: Tom StieghorstONBOARD THE MSC SEASIDE — When executives at MSC Cruises went looking for a design completely different from any other in the industry, they found it gathering dust in a desk drawer at the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri.

The line’s newest ship, the MSC Seaside, was conceived 12 years ago by a visionary Fincantieri engineer, but it languished because no cruise line wanted it, according to MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato.

To start with, the ship’s funnel was in the middle, not the back. That alone spooked buyers worried that soot would rain down on sunbathers gathered around the Deck 16 swimming pool behind it.

MSC likens the aft design to a Miami Beach condo. The suites there overlook a broad pool area on Deck 8. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
MSC likens the aft design to a Miami Beach condo. The suites there overlook a broad pool area on Deck 8. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

The design had an oddly narrowed tower of cabins in the back, opening space for a broad, uncovered promenade on Deck 8 and an expansive platform at the very aft where another pool was placed. A pair of glass-walled elevators connected the two pool decks.

When Onorato saw the plans, he knew he’d found something that wouldn’t be mistaken for any other cruise ship afloat.

“This is what we wanted,” Onorato said.

I had a chance to experience the nearly completed Seaside on a short cruise from Fincantieri’s yard in Monfalcone, Italy, to Trieste, about 20 minutes away. I came away thinking that passengers are going to want to try this ship, which is just the response MSC is seeking in its ongoing bid for recognition in North America.

Start with that rear profile, which MSC likens to a Miami Beach condo. It wastes space extravagantly, but it looks very cool. And from my cabin on Deck 15, I could descend to poolside in about 30 seconds.

MSC intends to sail the Seaside in the Caribbean from Miami year-round starting on Dec. 23. The ship has what seems like acres of open space on the top deck, ideal for sun-searchers from cold climates.

Onorato said new exhaust scrubber technologies solve the soot problem. There’s a giant LED screen for videos. And the pool on Deck 16 can be covered at night, creating a dance space beneath the tropical stars.

The midship funnel on the Seaside is the starting point for one of the ship’s neatest features, a 344-foot zip line that threads riders through two sets of giant hoops before ending on an aft platform.

The four-story atrium features stairs with transparent steps embedded with Swarovski crystals and tiny lights. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The four-story atrium features stairs with transparent steps embedded with Swarovski crystals and tiny lights. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Several waterslides also start on the funnel structure, including one in which passengers ride a board that transmits electronic data, turning it into an interactive video game.

Inside, the design of the Seaside carries on some of the themes of MSC’s first year-round North American ship, the MSC Divina. The Seaside has lots of shiny, sparkly metallic surfaces and an assertively neutral colour palette consisting mainly of white, black, grey and beige, with maroon in the carpets.

The levels of a four-story open atrium are linked by stairs that feature transparent steps embedded with tiny white lights and Swarovski crystals. Large LED screens with changing displays adorn the main wall of the atrium.

But the Seaside differs from the Divina, too.

The Seaside’s MSC Yacht Club luxury enclave is larger and, unlike on Divina, it includes a restaurant. The two-story Top Sail Lounge has magnificent forward views. (If you’re not staying in the Yacht Club, the Seaside has no public views from the bow).

The Deck 16 pool can be covered at night to turn it into a dance floor. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The Deck 16 pool can be covered at night to turn it into a dance floor. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

There’s a trio of speciality restaurants (seafood, steak and Asian) on Deck 16, which creates a foodie destination, according to Onorato. The theatre is smaller, but there will be more frequent shows, giving diners the flexibility to eat when they want and still catch the entertainment.

And then there’s that promenade, which brings cruisers as close to the water as they’re likely to get on a 4,138-passenger vessel.

Inside the ship, one sure-to-be-talked-about feature is the wall of liquid chocolate in the Venchi 1878 Chocolate Bar, which sends a sweet fragrance of chocolate wafting through several decks around it.

Although it is not entirely original, I liked the two-lane, full-size bowling alley in the arcade on Deck 7. I also enjoyed the Garage Club, a ’50s car-themed room that is a teen club by day and a bar at night.

One thing yet to be determined on the Seaside is whether MSC has tailored the food and service to American sensibilities. Onorato said it has. He said past perceptions of indifferent service and Euro-centric foods are the legacy of a time when the North American market was an afterthought for Geneva-based MSC.

That changed several years ago, Onorato said, and the Seaside will reflect all that MSC has learned about appealing to North American passengers. The reality, he said, is that improvements have been made and should be evident onboard the Seaside.

“Obviously, it takes time for those improvements to be fully acknowledged by everyone,” he said.

Advertisements

Fincantieri Finalizes Shipbuilding Contracts with Virgin Worth 2 Billion Euros

File Photo: Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Voyages' President and CEO Tom McAlpin as he arrives by helicopter for a news conference at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida June 23, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
File Photo: Sir Richard Branson with Virgin Voyages’ President and CEO Tom McAlpin as he arrives by helicopter for a news conference at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida June 23, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

By gCaptain.com

Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri says it has finalized construction contracts for three new cruise ships worth a combined 2 billion euros with Virgin Voyages, the new cruise ship arm of Virgin Group.

The three ships will be built at the Fincantieri shipyard in Sestri Ponente (Genoa), Italy with delivery scheduled for 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Each ship will weigh about 110,000 gross tons, be 278 meters long and 38 wide. The ships will feature over 1,400 guest cabins that can host more than 2,800 passengers, accompanied by 1,100 crew members on board to deliver the famed Virgin service.

Based in South Florida, Virgin Voyages, formerly Virgin Cruises, is backed by lead investors Bain Capital Private Equity and London-based Virgin Group, whose founder and CEO is billionaire Sir Richard Branson. The shipbuilding contracts were first signed October but depended on closing of the multi-billion dollar financing package.

Steel cutting on the first of the three new ships is scheduled for early 2017, followed by keel laying in Genoa in the fourth quarter of 2017.

“These ships will stand out for original design and craftsmanship,” Fincantieri said in a statement Tuesday. “They will include some highly innovative ideas and design solutions, notably for energy recovery, reducing the overall environmental impact. For example, they will be equipped with an energy production system of approximately 1 MW, which uses the diesel engine’s waste heat. The result is, therefore, a project which distinguishes Virgin Voyages in the worldwide cruise scenery.”

Virgin Voyages’ first ship is expected to arrive at PortMiami in 2020 for a range of Caribbean itineraries.

Carnival Finalizes Contracts to Build Five New Cruise Ships at Fincantieri

MS Koningsdam sea trials. Photo: Holland America
MS Koningsdam sea trials. Photo: Holland America

A big weekend for the world’s largest cruise company as Carnival Corporation finalizes contracts with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to build five new cruise ships costing more than $3.4 billion.

The final order adds a fifth ship to a memorandum of agreement between Carnival and Fincantieri announced in December 2015 calling for the construction of just four ships by 2020.  

The ships include two that will be built for Costa Asia for deployment in China, two for Princess Cruises and one designated for P&O Cruises Australia, with deliveries expected in 2019 and 2020, Carnival said over the weekend.

Fincantieri confirmed that the total value of the contracts exceeds 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion).

The contracts were formalized during a signing ceremony held Saturday as part of the official handover ceremony for Holland America Line’s MS Koningsdam at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Marghera, Italy.

The new ships for both Costa Asia and P&O Cruises Australia are expected to be 135,500-ton vessels with the capacity to carry 4,200 passengers. The 143,700-ton, 3,560-passenger ships for Princess Cruises will be the brand’s fourth and fifth Royal-class vessels, featuring the same design used on Royal Princess, Regal Princess and the new Majestic Princess coming in 2017.

The five new ships across three brands will be built at Fincantieri’s shipyards in Monfalcone and Marghera, Italy.

Carnival Corporation has now taken delivery of two new ships in 2016 – AIDAprima for AIDA Cruises and MS Koningsdam for Holland America Line. Including the five just ordered, Carnival Corporation has a total of 16 new ships scheduled to be delivered between 2016 and 2020.

“Today has been especially exciting for our company, our partners and our guests, as we celebrated the arrival of our amazing MS Koningsdam ship and officially signed agreements with Fincantieri to build five new cruise ships for the future,” said Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald at Saturday’s ceremony. “Supporting our goal to exceed guest expectations on every cruise, these new ships will create a whole new level of excitement and opportunity to deliver experiences that our guests will not only remember for the rest of their lives, but will also share with others. 

Using our strategic fleet enhancement plan to delight our guests is an important part of our measured growth strategy, which includes replacing less efficient ships with newer, larger and more efficient vessels over a very specific period of time.”

The finalized contract with Fincantieri is a result of the memorandum of agreement announced by Carnival Corporation and Fincantieri in December 2015, and builds on the larger strategic shipbuilding partnership announced by the two companies in March 2015. 

Specific ship features and deployment details will be announced by each brand at a future date.