MSC Meraviglia Becomes Biggest Ship to Call in Manhattan

MSC Meraviglia

The MSC Meraviglia made history in the early hours of Monday morning, October 7, as she became the largest cruise ship to dock in New York City as she berthed at the north end of Pier 88 at Manhattan Cruise Terminal. 

“We are so thrilled to welcome MSC Meraviglia, a truly beautiful ship, to the U.S. as she marks another major milestone for MSC Cruises in the North American market,” said Ken Muskat, EVP & Chief Operating Officer of MSC Cruises (USA). “Due to significant demand, for the first time in MSC Cruises history, we now have four distinct ships sailing in the region as MSC Meraviglia joins MSC Seaside, MSC Armonia and MSC Divina. With each ship offering its own unique design and guest experience inspired by our European heritage, we look forward to providing travellers with even more choice and variety to best fit their vacation needs.” 

Meraviglia in New York

Designed to sail in all seasons and climates, the MSC Meraviglia will begin her North America program with three cruises from New York, including two itineraries to New England and Canada and one repositioning to her new homeport in Miami.

On her first Caribbean sailing, departing from NYC on October 28, the MSC Meraviglia will be the first ship to call on Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, MSC Cruises’ new g private island destination in the Bahamas opening November 9, 2019.

From November 10, 2019, through April 5, 2020, MSC Meraviglia will sail two different seven-night western Caribbean itineraries visiting ports in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Mexico, Belize, Honduras and The Bahamas. 

MSC Meraviglia

Following her inaugural season in Miami, MSC Meraviglia will then return to Northern Europe for summer 2020, from April to September.

Upon returning to the U.S. on October 2020, the MSC Meraviglia will once again do three 10-night sailings from New York to Canada & New England before then homeporting back in Miami for seven-night Caribbean sailings.

Brooklyn Cruise Terminal getting upgrades

The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, the New York City home for Princess Cruises and Cunard Line ships, will get $17.2 million in upgrades.

The funds will go toward building a new apron up to 500 feet long, a passenger viaduct and two new gangways. They will also pay for the design and implementation of a high-capacity wireless network at the terminal, according to an announcement from the New York City Economic Development Corp. and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.

Adams said $2.2 million in capital grants will be provided by the city and another $15 million will come from Ports America, the private operator selected to run the terminal in May.

New York picked Ports America to run both the Manhattan and Brooklyn cruise terminals through 2029. As part of the agreement, Ports America has agreed to invest $38.5 million in capital improvements at both terminals.

Anthem of the Seas Now Sailing in the U.S.

Anthem of the Seas enters New York

Anthem of the Seas sailed past the Statue of Liberty and around Manhattan on a night of such warmth and clarity that it was hard for me to realize the month was November. I sat in the ship’s beautiful conservatory and marveled at how welcoming such a huge vessel could be.

A ceremony marked the arrival of the Royal Caribbean International ship in the U.S., and Anthem made a glowing entrance. The onboard entertainment, dining and accommodations incited the same excitement seen in the U.K. for the vessel earlier this year. Americans were particularly enthusiastic about features such as the large virtual balconies in the inside staterooms, where people with live-streaming “windows” saw more dolphins and whales on the transatlantic crossing than many of those with balcony staterooms.

Doug Grau, director of sales for the Western U.S. for Royal Caribbean, says the active lifestyle activities available onboard — from a skydiving simulator to circus school — are an especially good match for Western travelers, who tend to be energetic and outdoors-oriented, falling within Royal Caribbean’s psychographic. The top-flight entertainment, including the amazing “We Will Rock You” Broadway musical, tribute bands and cabaret shows, is also a particularly strong draw for the West.

“There is huge interest in Western states for Anthem (Quantum-class) and Oasis-class ships, and 30 percent of Royal’s sales coming out of the West is for these ships,” Grau said.
However, Grau finds a gap between agent experience and demand. When he talks to agent groups and asks how many have sailed with Royal Caribbean, most have; however, when he asks how many have been onboard during the past few years, only a handful respond affirmatively. Grau notes that when Mariner of the Seas came to the West, it was the first time many agents had seen the ship — and it was nearly 10 years old.

At the rate that the line’s ship design and customer experience has changed, this means Western agents are missing out on the modernized Royal Caribbean, Grau says.

“If you aren’t selling these ships, your customers are buying them elsewhere,” Grau said. “I tell them it is well worth the investment to attend the East Coast Cruise 360 sessions and inspect a number of recent ships. Large ships scare a lot of agents, who are afraid their clients will be caught in long lines and tied up for hours when embarking. We’ve done everything possible, both in terms of design and technology, to make the experience human-sized and comfortable. We have more rooms that hold 80 or 90 people than ever before.”

These efforts are paying off. At Anthem’s embarkation on Nov. 4 in Cape Liberty, N.J., Royal Caribbean representatives with iPads checked passengers in as they were dropped off at the port. Common questions I heard from guests were, “Is that all?” and “What do I do now?” The answer: “Go right to your stateroom and enjoy the ship.”

My own check-in experience, complete with credit card scan and photo ID, which I had not done in advance, was five minutes from start to finish — considerably shorter than check-in on ships less than a quarter the size of Anthem.

During Anthem’s first cruise from the U.S., Royal Caribbean announced an order for a fifth Quantum-class ship to be delivered in fall 2020.

“It is such a pleasure to announce the order of another Quantum-class ship as we are welcoming Anthem of the Seas to North America,” said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Fain says although there have been some tweaks in food, drink and entertainment, the Oasis and Quantum ships cross international markets with ease.

“These ships have been received with excitement by passengers and crew and have performed exceptionally well across the globe,” he said. “We fully expect that momentum to continue as we add to this innovative class.”