Latest MSC Cruises ship floated out at the shipyard

Latest MSC Cruises ship floated out at shipyard

The latest in a series of new MSC Cruises ships have been floated out at its shipyard in France.

MSC Virtuosa is the second Meraviglia-Plus vessel following MSC Grandiosa and will now move docks at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint Nazaire for further construction and fitting until delivery in October 2020.

The float out follows the delivery in October of MSC Grandiosa as well as the steel cutting ceremony on the same day of MSC Europa.

MSC Virtuosa will be the second ship in the company’s fleet to have a selective catalytic reduction system and next-generation advanced wastewater treatment system to minimise the environmental footprint and ensure cleaner air emissions.

The catalytic reduction technology aims to help reduce nitrogen oxide by 80% by converting it into harmless nitrogen and water.

MSC Virtuosa will also be fitted with shore-to-ship power which connects it to a port’s local power grid to further reduce air emissions.

The line will soon reveal exact details of the features onboard MSC Virtuosa.

But like MSC Grandiosa, the ship will have a promenade lined with restaurants and shops underneath a 93 metre-long LED Sky Screen, two new shows from Cirque du Soleil at Sea and the Zoe personal cruise assistant in every cabin.

The ship’s maiden voyage will be a seven-night six-port western Mediterranean cruise in November 2020 from Genoa, Italy.

After a winter season in the Mediterranean, MSC Virtuosa will be deployed in summer 2021 to Northern Europe with itineraries to the Norwegian fjords and Baltic capital cities.

The third of three Meraviglia-Plus ships, yet to be named, will enter service in 2023 and be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

MSC Cruises is spending €5 billion to build five LNG-powered ships with the first ‘world class’ type named MSC Europa entering service in May 2022.

The line plans to expand its fleet to 25 ships by 2027 at a cost of €11.6 billion.

Port of Kiel chalks up 350th call by an MSC cruise ship

Port of Kiel chalks up 350th call by an MSC cruise ship

The port’s cruise shipping director Nicole Claus welcomed the ship’s captain Guiseppe Galano

MSC Fantasia arrived at the Port of Kiel’s Ostseekai berth from St Petersburg in Russia on 2 September, marking MSC Cruises’ 350th visit to the German port.

To mark the anniversary, the port’s cruise shipping director Nicole Claus welcomed the ship’s captain Guiseppe Galano. Together, Galano and Claus unveiled a bronze plaque on Kiel’s Cruise Ship Walk of Fame, which honours shipping companies and events that are of special significance for Kiel as a cruise shipping location.

MSC’s cruise ships have been regularly calling at the port of Kiel for twelve years, after the first vessel visited on 4 September 2005. The company began using Kiel as a base port in 2006 and since then, the city has been a constituent part of the company’s northern Europe route planning. To date, nine different MSC cruise ships have visited Kiel, while 1.3 million passengers have embarked or disembarked from an MSC cruise ship in the city.

“With 350 visits to the port under its belt, MSC is the cruise shipping company which has been our most frequent caller to date,” said Claus.

MSC Fantasia has already undertaken 18 cruises from Kiel this season. Three more are to follow up to the season finale on 16 September, when the ship heads for the Mediterranean. These northern Europe cruises take guests to Baltic destinations including Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Tallinn, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland; St Petersburg. The ship also sails from Kiel to Copenhagen and the Norwegian fjords in Geiranger, Flåm and Stavanger.

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MSC and Mein Schiff in the Port of Kiel.

International cruise ship passengers who board in Copenhagen can enjoy day excursions ashore from the port of Kiel into the surrounding region and to the Hanse city of Lübeck and the north German metropolis of Hamburg.

“Because of its geographical location, Kiel is particularly attractive as the starting point for so-called butterfly cruises,” said Claus. “The combination of Baltic and Norwegian routes is a very interesting option.”

This year, Kiel will host 142 calls from 28 different ships, which will bring around half a million cruise ship passengers to the port. In addition, about 1.6 million ferry passengers will pass through the port.

MSC sets course for ‘UK comeback’

Photo Credit Dave Jones

by Natasha Salmon

MSC Cruises plans to double its UK sales team as it aims for growth in the UK market, Natasha Salmon reports from the line’s new offices in west London

MSC Cruises has pledged allegiance to the trade as it plans to double its sales team ahead of a planned “huge comeback” in the UK market.

The operator says it has set its sights on helping the UK reclaim its position as the largest cruise market in Europe having been overtaken by Germany.

Market ambitions

Speaking at MCS’s new offices in Uxbridge, UK managing director Antonio Paradiso and sales director Steve Williams said strengthening its team of account managers was key.

Paradiso said: “MSC will be making a huge comeback in the UK as the British market really matters to us. We have had the opportunity to develop the German market and it has overtaken Britain in the rankings. We want to get the UK back to number two in the world [behind the US].

“The size of the market is always going to be linked to the capacity you have at sea, and as we have 11 ships coming in the next 10 years, we want 3.6 million European passengers by 2024.”

This year MSC operated six sailings from Southampton on MSC Splendida, the line’s first UK departures for two years.

The family‑owned line will launch the 4,500-capacity MSC Meraviglia next year and the first of its new Seaside-class ship in 2018.

Paradiso said he wants MSC to become one of the top-three cruise lines in the UK and has tasked Williams with growing the sales team from six to 14 following his switch from rival Royal Caribbean.

“It is a huge opportunity to restructure a sales business in a way that really gives British and Irish cruise agents what they expect,” said Williams.

“We will have a team of regional sales managers covering the UK to grow our presence on the ground, where we were weaker before, especially with high street agents.

“They will be overseen by a head of retail. Plus, I will also have a team of national account managers who will focus on supporting cruise specialists. We’re keen to build great relationships with the consortia and multiples too.”

Commission review

Another area Williams will be assessing is commission and MSC’s agent reward scheme, with an individually focused loyalty scheme under consideration.

“There is a base commission but we are reviewing the whole commercial structure,” he said.

“We will work with business owners to discuss what rewards and commission are appropriate for their companies. Currently, we don’t believe a blanket scheme is the right way for us, but this will develop as our regional account managers work with frontline staff.”

Ship visits

Agent engagement will be enhanced with more ship visits in Scotland, Ireland and Southampton as well as more fam trips and a new online training platform.

Paradiso stressed agents remain the priority for a line that sees just 2% of its business come direct.

“We are aware that some of the larger cruise lines are adopting aggressive approaches to drive direct business. We have no intention to do this,” he said.

“We have a contact centre in the UK, so if people want to book direct with us they can, but the trade remains our key priority.”

On price, Paradiso said: “We are starting a journey to become more popular and the prices will reflect that. There will always be value for money, but we offer premium cruises as well with our Yacht Club.”

As part of a drive to make UK agents feel like they are part of “the MSC family”, the line will host 50 agents at Travel Weekly’s Globe Travel Awards 2017 in January.