The 4,138-passenger ship will anchor MSC’s Caribbean itineraries with seven-day cruises from Miami, starting Jan 6.
MSC executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said that the MSC Divina, offering weekly departures from Miami, sources only 40% to 50% of passengers from North America. With the arrival of the Seaside, MSC hopes to boost that number to 80%.
Geneva-based MSC has 12 ships, with deployment ranging from South America to the Middle East to South Africa to China. The bulk of its business, however, comes from Europe with the Mediterranean countries of Italy, Spain and France being particularly important.
The Seaside christening was a star-studded affair with Italian actress Sophia Loren serving as godmother for the ship on a balmy Miami evening. Loren christened the first new ship for MSC in 2003, the MSC Lirica, and has done the honours ever since.
“It’s an evening we’ve been waiting many months for,” said Roberto Fusaro, president of MSC Cruises USA.
Prior to the christening, an audience of more than 2,500 dignitaries, travel agents, journalists and vendors was entertained by operatic tenor Andrea Bocelli and Latin pop singer Ricky Martin.
Bocelli sang “Ave Maria,” solo at first and then with Voices of Haiti, a children’s choir of 60 Haitian kids that sang this summer at the Teatro del Silenzio concert in Bocelli’s hometown of Lajatico in Italy’s Tuscany region. They also sang “Amazing Grace” together in English.
The emcee of the evening was TV personality, Mario Lopez. Also on hand was Hall of Fame Miami Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino, underscoring MSC’s marketing partnership as the official cruise line of the Dolphins.
MSC announced a charitable partnership with the Andrea Bocelli Foundation to help the impoverished island of Haiti with health, education, environmental help and economic development.
The Seaside is a new class of ship for MSC, it’s fifth since it began building cruise ships for its own fleet in 2003. The ship has an unusually broad, uncovered promenade on Deck 8 that gives a sense of closeness to the ocean.
A pool on the aft of Deck 8 deck is surrounded by loungers and is connected by glass-enclosed elevators to another pool and sun area on Deck 16. Over that pool is a zipline, running from funnel to stern, the longest at sea at 400 feet.
The ship’s inaugural 14-night cruise departing Dec. 23 will visit Antigua and Barbuda; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Nassau, Bahamas; Jamaica; the Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico.
MSC is spending $12 billion to triple its capacity by 2026. “This is what has allowed us to have the tonnage to finally serve the North American market,” Vago said.
Mediterranean Shipping Co., the parent company of MSC, was founded in 1970 by a former ship captain, Gianluigi Aponte, and grew into a global power in the container shipping sector. It entered the cruise business in 1989 by acquiring Naples-based Lauro Lines, with its flagship the Achille Lauro.
At the christening, MSC Seaside was docked at Port Miami’s Terminal B, one terminal away from a massive MSC cargo ship, its decks stacked 10 deep with 2,500 maroon-coloured containers with the yellow MSC logo stamped on the sides.