MSC is betting big on U.S. cruisers

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MSC Cruises may be relatively small in North America, so it is easy to overlook the magnitude of the line, which has a much bigger presence in Europe and also claims a large market share in South America.

A presentation by executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago aboard the newly-delivered MSC Seaside offered a broadside of statistics, some of which were eye-opening.

Vago said the 2 million passengers MSC expects in 2017 will take 1.8 million shore excursions, see 8,960 Broadway-style shows while onboard its 12 ships and consume over 50 million meals.

He said MSC has the most international passenger base of any cruise line with 170 nationalities represented. The line visits 86 countries on 194 different itineraries and calls at 199 ports (Carnival Corp. claims over 700).

Founded in Naples, Italy, MSC sells in 67 countries around the world, Vago said, and the average passenger is 45 years old.

Without saying which day it was, Vago also said that MSC’s record for a single day of sales was 10,993 bookings.

The company, a subsidiary of Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Co., has 17,778 onboard and shoreside employees and expects to create 25,000 new jobs by 2026 as it proceeds with a $10.2 billion shipbuilding program.

To date, MSC has only had one ship in the North American market at a time, but that is about to change as its new ship, the MSC Seaside, joins the MSC Divina in Miami on Dec. 21. The 4,138-passenger Seaside is the first MSC ship to have an English name, and the first newbuild to be sent to North America directly from the shipyard.

By the fall of 2019, they will be joined by a seasonal deployment of the MSC Meraviglia, giving MSC three ships in Miami for the 2019-20 winter season with a weekly combined capacity of over 12,000 passengers.

And that doesn’t count the two ships MSC currently operates for Europeans (and Canadians) from Havana, Cuba, or the ship it deploys seasonally from Martinique and Guadeloupe.

By 2019, MSC plans to have opened a private island near Bimini that will serve all of those vessels.

At a ceremony to accept delivery of the Seaside from Italian shipbuilding powerhouse Fincantieri, Vago and Mediterranean Shipping Co. owner and chairman Gianluigi Aponte announced a contract would be signed for two more Seaside ships, each with capacity for 350 more passengers than the Seaside.

“We are determined to become one of the most important cruise operators,” Aponte said.

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MSC Meraviglia to sail three cruises from New York

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The 4,488-passenger MSC Meraviglia will come to America earlier than scheduled, sailing three cruises from New York in the fall of 2019.

The ship will sail two 10-night round trip Canada/New England cruises as well as a 13-night Caribbean cruise that ends in Miami.

As previously reported, after the Meraviglia arrives in Miami, MSC will have three ships in the Miami market in the winter of 2019-2020: the Seaside, Divina and Meraviglia.

MSC Cruises takes delivery of new flagship MSC Seaside

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MSC Cruises has taken delivery of its new flagship MSC Seaside at the Fincantieri shipyard.

It is the second new MSC ship to come into service in 2017 and will homeport in Miami for Caribbean itineraries. It is the first in MSC’s Seaside Class.

MSC Seaside weighs 169,380 tonnes and can take 5,179 passengers.

At the ceremony, in Italy, MSC Cruises and Fincantieri also signed firm orders for the €1.8 billion construction of two Seaside EVO ships.

MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said: “MSC Seaside coming into service marks another key milestone in the history and future of our company, but she also embodies a pivotal moment for the industry. In fact, she is the first ship of the fifth new prototype that we bring into service and introduces a wholly-innovative product that sets a new standard for the industry to follow.

“The Seaside Class of ships is designed to bring guests closer to the sea and to operate in sunny waters while continuing to push the boundaries of maritime and guest-centric technology.”

Italian president Sergio Mattarella and Graziano Delrio, Italy’s minister of infrastructures and transports were among the dignitaries at the ceremony.

MSC Seaside’s sister ship MSC Seaview will come into service in June 2018, starting her summer season in the Mediterranean. At the delivery ceremony, Vago also announced that MSC Seaview will be christened in Civitavecchia, Italy, on June 2, 2018.

He added: “As we are nearing the end of 2017, we can look back on a year when we enjoyed unprecedented capacity growth. With two of the more innovative new ships in the industry have come into service in the past six months and now with the addition of two Seaside EVO ships to our investment plan, we are now even better positioned to further extend our global footprint. We are expecting the delivery of at least one new ship each year through 2026, with six to have come into service between 2017 and 2020.”

Giuseppe Bono, chief executive of Fincantieri, added: “We are proud to have accomplished such an important project: a ship, for a new customer, the largest one ever built in Italy. This demonstrates not only our ability to satisfy the needs of the shipowners but also the extraordinary operational level which Fincantieri has achieved.

“We believe we have built a highly innovative ship with MSC. She marks a further technological quality leap. Such a milestone has allowed us to gain the customer’s loyalty with another order for two new ships, which will [again] represent a real evolution.”

In total, 12 new MSC ships are to be built by 2026, for an overall investment of €10.5 billion.