MSC Adds Lirica to UAE Lineup

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MSC Cruises announced that the MSC Lirica will be in the United Arab Emirates for the 2018-2019 winter season, featuring newly extended cruises of 11 nights and 14 nights.

The MSC Lirica will be making her debut in the UAE in November 2018, offering longer itineraries, two overnight stays in Dubai, as well as cruises to India for the very first time.

Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO, added: “This will be our seventh season in the UAE and we have seen strong demand for our quality product offering from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A strong Fly&Cruise programme means that guests from all around the world are able to enjoy this popular cruise region. Our modern ships and distinctive, quality cruise experience are an appealing way for holidaymakers to explore the rich and diverse experiences that the UAE can offer.

“Introducing India to MSC Cruises’ Winter 18/19 itineraries demonstrates how our significant investment plan is enabling us to expand our global footprint and establish a presence in a high-potential market, one that we expect to grow considerably over the coming years.”

Cruises will call into India from Dubai, with more calls at Abu Dhabi, Muscat and then crossing the Arabian Sea to Mumbai. The voyage also stops in Goa and Mangalore.

There is also an 11-night voyage calling at Sir Bani Yas, a private beach island.

The MSC Lirica will be offering ten cruises starting from either Dubai or Abu Dhabi with fly-cruise packages.

The MSC Splendida will also be based in the UAE for the winter 2018-2019 season offering seven-night cruises with two embarkation ports – Dubai on Saturday and Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

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MSC Seaside christened in all-star affair

From left, MSC Seaside Capt. Pier Paolo Scala, godmother Sophia Loren and MSC executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago. Photo Credit: Ivan SarfattiMIAMI — MSC Cruises on Thursday held its first christening in North America for the MSC Seaside, a ship MSC hopes will crack open the doors to further growth for the largely European brand.

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.

Ricky Martin at the MSC Seaside christening. Photo Credit: Aaron Davidson/Getty Images
Ricky Martin at the MSC Seaside christening. Photo Credit: Aaron Davidson/Getty Images

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.

Dan Marino gives a Miami Dolphins helmet to MSC Cruises USA President Roberto Fusaro. Photo Credit: Ivan Sarfatti
Dan Marino gives a Miami Dolphins helmet to MSC Cruises USA President Roberto Fusaro. Photo Credit: Ivan Sarfatti

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.

Tianjin Targeting 800,000 Passengers in 2017

The Ovation of the Seas in Tianjin

With four berths, Tianjin expects around 800,000 passengers this year, and through the first six months of 2017, traffic was up some 102.4 percent.

Customs and border protection has been further refined, reducing clearance times to 10 seconds in some instances with automated terminals.

Earlier this year, the port signed a MOU with Costa to build a supply and distribution center, with Costa committing to year-round voyages from Tianjin through 2019.

Also of note, the MSC Lirica sailed from Tianjin in February, offering a new “Around China” itinerary with interporting in Zhoushan, Hong Kong and Xiamen, as well as calls to South Korea and Japan, according to Da Wu, vice general manager of Tianjin International Cruise Terminal.

Wu hopes his port will offer more diversified products, including cruises to nowhere, to attract new passengers

Zhengdong Zhang, general manager, added: “Similar to MSC’s model, we are exploring opening domestic routes to Dalian, Yantai, Qingdao, Rongcheng and Weihai, creating a product in which passengers only need their national identification card to travel.”