MSC Cruises announces return to UK next year

By Hollie-Rae Merrick

MSC Cruises is returning to the UK next year with a short series of ex-UK sailings from Southampton.The line will base Fantasia-class ship MSC Splendida in Southampton for six sailings, having pulled out of the UK market this year.

Among the sailings will be MSC’s first round-Britain itinerary starting in a UK port. Previous cruises had embarked in Hamburg.

Giles Hawke, MSC’s executive director for the UK and Ireland, said he hoped the “staggered return” of ex-UK sailings would be built on in 2017.

“A lot of our guests and agents have been asking us to base a ship in the UK,” he said. “People love travelling with us and want to embark in the UK with us.”

The line’s 2016 programme also includes new northern Europe cruises and longer Mediterranean sailings.

During the summer season, MSC will offer 270 sailings across 22 itineraries, made up of nine core seven-night Mediterranean itineraries, seven Med sailings of between nine and 12 nights, and new Baltic and Norwegian fjords cruises.

For the first time, a Fantasia-class ship will operate the Dubai winter season, with Bahrain making its debut on the itinerary.

Over the past year, the line has focused on fly-cruise, but the 2016 programme also includes cruise-only prices.

Hawke said: “We have responded to feedback by making cruise-only an attractive option for those who wish to make their own arrangements or for agents who want to create their own packages.”

For simplicity, cruise-only fares for European itineraries will be set £150 lower than fly-cruise packages, and £400 lower for the Caribbean and Middle East.

Upgrades from outside to balcony cabins on Fantastica fares are also available for £50 a person.

Bookings before August 31 will qualify for savings of up to £300.

The 2016 brochure has a new look and feel, with more space dedicated to each itinerary.

It also includes four pages of information about the four ships MSC has on order.

The stretching of MSC Sinfonia is underway

MSC Cruises’ €200m Renaissance Program will see the second ship in drydock for the next 10 weeks as the MSC Sinfonia arrived in Sicily for her stretching.

Fincantieri’s marine engineers will carefully bisect MSC Sinfonia’s hull, after which the two halves of the ships will be slowly drawn apart.

On January 20-21 they will insert a prebuilt 2,200-ton, 24-metre midsection containing 193 extra cabins. Then they will refit and renew much of the ship’s interior, bringing an enhanced sense of comfort and space.

On Jan. 9, the new midsection was floated into the shipyard and hauled into the drydock area where MSC Sinfonia will remain for the duration of her stay.

Once the work is complete and sea trials completed, the larger MSC Sinfonia will weigh anchor from the shipyard on March 25 for Genoa, from where she’ll begin for her maiden cruise to Ajaccio, Barcelona and Marseille.

MSC Sinfonia will feature new purpose-built areas for children created in partnership with Chicco and LEGO,  and a new Baby Club, Mini Club, Young Club and Teens Club. MSC Cruises has also reimagined the onboard dining experiences, keeping the buffet open 20 hours per day and installing fresh new dining spaces, a brand new lounge and an extended restaurant.

The ship’s MSC Aurea Spa will also be enriched with additional massage areas, and a new outdoor spray park will be added on deck 13 – an exciting series of playful water features and jets.

The remainder of the Renaissance Program will progress according to the following schedule:

•    MSC Opera: 2 May to 4 July 2015
•    MSC Lirica: 31 August to 2 November 2015

MSC Cruises currently carries roughly 40,000 guests per day, but by 2022 will double its capacity to 80,000 guests a day – 3.4 million per year – once the Renaissance Programme is completed and the last of seven planned ships is delivered.


MSC Cruises saves baby seal from uncertain fate

MSC Cruises saves baby seal from uncertain fate

MSC Cruises has reported back on a successful rescue mission after a baby seal was found stranded far from his natural habitat. 

Back in 2013, the animal – named Selso by his rescuers – was discovered washed up on a beach in South Africa, Seatrade Insider reports.

He was taken to uShaka Sea World in Durban, where conservation workers determined that he was a young southern elephant seal – some 2,200 km from the closest colony! 

When Selso arrived at the rehabilitation centre, he weighed 73 kg – less than half the average weight for an elephant seal of equivalent age. 

It took him seven months to recover from his ordeal, at which point MSC Cruises stepped in to help release him back into the wild.

Thanks to the crew of the MSC Sinfonia, which docked in Durban in January, he made it back to the colony on Marion Island – thought to be his original home – on June 30th. 

Selso is now said to be in excellent condition.


A map tracing Selso’s movements since his release near Port Elizabeth

Selso, the two-year-old elephant seal released off the coast of Port Elizabeth on 11 January 2014, is steadily making his way towards his home range in the Southern Ocean.

Following six months of rehabilitation at uShaka Sea World, Selso was deemed fit for release and transported courtesy of an MSC cruise liner, the Sinfonia, to a pre-selected destination 25 nautical miles off the Port Elizabeth coastline.

Secure in his transport crate, Selso was carefully lifted by crane over the side of the ship and lowered until the box reached approximately one metre from the surface of the water. uShaka Sea World staff member Wayne Sumpton, who was harnessed to the crane, stood on top of the crate mid-air and released its doors. As the second door was opened, Selso wasted no time deliberating and dived straight into the Indian Ocean, surfacing only once before disappearing into the ocean depths. Selso’s progress is being closely monitored, thanks to the satellite tracker fitted to his head.

The morning after his release he appeared to be heading back towards the coast but thankfully, about 30km from shore, he seemed to find his bearings, turn around and head directly south, passing the point of his release along the way.

Over the next two days Selso merged with the south-moving Agulhas current, which travels down the east coast of Africa.

By the morning of Thursday 16 January Selso was recorded at 182 nautical miles south of Port Elizabeth. Since his release Selso has travelled an average of 76km per day and appears to be heading in the right direction – towards the Antarctic.

Elephant seals are solitary and spend their lives in the ocean, only moving on to land to moult or breed. At just two years of age, Selso is about three years from sexual maturity. He will feed primarily on squid and fish, consuming around 12kg of food a day.

Marion Island is home to a massive colony of thousands of elephant seals, and the most likely destination for Selso. He is expected to make landfall to moult in November 2014.