“In three years we will double our capacity and in 10 years we will triple it,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises.
In 2018 MSC will operate a fleet of 14 ships with an average size of 2,892 guests at double occupancy and is expected to be the largest operator by capacity in Europe. It has ambitious expansion plans in North America and China and is the market leader in South America and South Africa. By 2028 the company will have 24 ships in service, with an average size of 3,734 passengers.
“Our objective is to deliver a holiday experience which is unique to our customers and to tourism in general,” Vago told Cruise Industry News. “It’s also to expand the concept of cruising to the world,” Vago added.
Between now and 2026, MSC will take deliveries of ships on the Seaside, Meraviglia, Meraviglia Plus, Seaside EVO and the LNG-powered World Class platforms.
Vago described MSC as a global brand, with a premium level product offering at a contemporary price.
“Our common denominator is that we are a Mediterranean brand with the capability to fine-tune the experience to the area of operation,” Vago said. “We can fine-tune the product delivery.”
While its peers have a house of brands competing in the cruise market, MSC has a single brand with large ships.
“MSC has traditionally believed in organic growth,” Vago said.
But that doesn’t mean they may not one day explore other market segments as customers grow with the brand.
In Europe, Vago said the company has realized their ambition to conquer the market, also entering the business later than all their competitors.
That strategy is now expanding to the rest of the world, he said, and the plans will follow demand.
In China, the MSC Splendida is replacing the Lirica on a seasonal basis, upping summer capacity out of Shanghai. In South America, the new Seaview will sail from Brazil for winter 2018-2019.
In North America, the new Seaside is year-round, to be joined by the 2017-built Meraviglia come 2019.
“We have customers travelling to the Caribbean and we needed to introduce new ships, with a different platform,” Vago said. “We had the need to put more cabins and a new offering into the North American market if we wanted to evolve our brand there.
“We had one ship (in North America) and she was filled with customers from Europe. We did not have the opportunity to grow,” he continued. “There is an opportunity for MSC to grow in North America but we needed to create both the hardware and the software for the market. That is the vision behind the building of a very new platform and prototype, the MSC Seaside.
“The Seaside is a spirit of our leadership in many ways. We are setting the pace for innovation and we will see many reflections of this platform for years to come.”
The Seaview, a sister ship, will be delivered this summer. The Seaside EVO platform, essentially an enlarged version with more staterooms, will be launched in 2021, with a second ship scheduled for a 2023 delivery from Fincantieri.
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.