MSC Virtuosa Is Open for Bookings

MSC Virtuosa
PHOTO: Rendering of MSC Virtuosa. (photo courtesy MSC Cruises)
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MSC TO BUILD FOUR 1,000 GUEST LUXURY CRUISE SHIPS

MSC Seaview in Valletta, Malta
MSC Cruises is continuing its impressive growth in the cruise industry as the company today announced an agreement to build four ultra-luxury cruise ships at Fincantieri.
The 1,000-guest, 64,000-ton ships will enter service in 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026. The memorandum of agreement is for a total value in excess of two million euro, MSC said and marks the company’s first dedicated luxury ships.
Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman, said: “It is off the back of the great success of our ship-within-a-ship luxury concept that our guests asked us to enter into the ultra-luxury segment, as a natural evolution of the MSC Yacht Club. These ships will be able to offer unique itineraries, thanks to their size, and the guest services will be taken to another level, including our personalized MSC Yacht Club butler service, available 24/7.”
By 2027, MSC will have 25 mega ships in service, up from 15 today. The additional four ships will put the MSC fleet at 29 ships by 2027 with over 98,000 berths and a market capacity of over 5 million guests annually, according to Cruise Industry News estimates.
“I am especially pleased to be able to further extend our partnership with Fincantieri through this new order. The award-winning Seaside and Seaside-Evo class have already been recognized as ground-breaking and innovative designs. We are now introducing another new class, which will establish a new standard of ultra-luxury at sea with ships that will showcase the quality and highest standards that are associated with Made in Italy,” Vago said.
Giuseppe Bono, CEO of Fincantieri, stated: “It is with pride that two great brands – an Italian one and one with a strong Italian DNA -, well-known all over the world, today announce an important construction program. We are extremely satisfied that to launch a new class of ships in the luxury segment, MSC Cruises has acknowledged that our project will allow creating a new generation of cutting-edge units from both a technological point of view, safety and with particular attention paid to passenger comfort. With this project Fincantieri can count on 53 cruise ships in its order book, confirming to be an absolute market leader in all the cruise shipbuilding segments.”

MSC Seaside offers sights, experiences unlike any other

T1204SEASIDE5_TS_HR.jpgMSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato in the two-story Top Sail Lounge, part of the MSC Yacht Club luxury enclave on MSC Seaside. Photo Credit: Tom StieghorstONBOARD THE MSC SEASIDE — When executives at MSC Cruises went looking for a design completely different from any other in the industry, they found it gathering dust in a desk drawer at the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri.

The line’s newest ship, the MSC Seaside, was conceived 12 years ago by a visionary Fincantieri engineer, but it languished because no cruise line wanted it, according to MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato.

To start with, the ship’s funnel was in the middle, not the back. That alone spooked buyers worried that soot would rain down on sunbathers gathered around the Deck 16 swimming pool behind it.

MSC likens the aft design to a Miami Beach condo. The suites there overlook a broad pool area on Deck 8. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
MSC likens the aft design to a Miami Beach condo. The suites there overlook a broad pool area on Deck 8. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

The design had an oddly narrowed tower of cabins in the back, opening space for a broad, uncovered promenade on Deck 8 and an expansive platform at the very aft where another pool was placed. A pair of glass-walled elevators connected the two pool decks.

When Onorato saw the plans, he knew he’d found something that wouldn’t be mistaken for any other cruise ship afloat.

“This is what we wanted,” Onorato said.

I had a chance to experience the nearly completed Seaside on a short cruise from Fincantieri’s yard in Monfalcone, Italy, to Trieste, about 20 minutes away. I came away thinking that passengers are going to want to try this ship, which is just the response MSC is seeking in its ongoing bid for recognition in North America.

Start with that rear profile, which MSC likens to a Miami Beach condo. It wastes space extravagantly, but it looks very cool. And from my cabin on Deck 15, I could descend to poolside in about 30 seconds.

MSC intends to sail the Seaside in the Caribbean from Miami year-round starting on Dec. 23. The ship has what seems like acres of open space on the top deck, ideal for sun-searchers from cold climates.

Onorato said new exhaust scrubber technologies solve the soot problem. There’s a giant LED screen for videos. And the pool on Deck 16 can be covered at night, creating a dance space beneath the tropical stars.

The midship funnel on the Seaside is the starting point for one of the ship’s neatest features, a 344-foot zip line that threads riders through two sets of giant hoops before ending on an aft platform.

The four-story atrium features stairs with transparent steps embedded with Swarovski crystals and tiny lights. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The four-story atrium features stairs with transparent steps embedded with Swarovski crystals and tiny lights. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Several waterslides also start on the funnel structure, including one in which passengers ride a board that transmits electronic data, turning it into an interactive video game.

Inside, the design of the Seaside carries on some of the themes of MSC’s first year-round North American ship, the MSC Divina. The Seaside has lots of shiny, sparkly metallic surfaces and an assertively neutral colour palette consisting mainly of white, black, grey and beige, with maroon in the carpets.

The levels of a four-story open atrium are linked by stairs that feature transparent steps embedded with tiny white lights and Swarovski crystals. Large LED screens with changing displays adorn the main wall of the atrium.

But the Seaside differs from the Divina, too.

The Seaside’s MSC Yacht Club luxury enclave is larger and, unlike on Divina, it includes a restaurant. The two-story Top Sail Lounge has magnificent forward views. (If you’re not staying in the Yacht Club, the Seaside has no public views from the bow).

The Deck 16 pool can be covered at night to turn it into a dance floor. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The Deck 16 pool can be covered at night to turn it into a dance floor. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

There’s a trio of speciality restaurants (seafood, steak and Asian) on Deck 16, which creates a foodie destination, according to Onorato. The theatre is smaller, but there will be more frequent shows, giving diners the flexibility to eat when they want and still catch the entertainment.

And then there’s that promenade, which brings cruisers as close to the water as they’re likely to get on a 4,138-passenger vessel.

Inside the ship, one sure-to-be-talked-about feature is the wall of liquid chocolate in the Venchi 1878 Chocolate Bar, which sends a sweet fragrance of chocolate wafting through several decks around it.

Although it is not entirely original, I liked the two-lane, full-size bowling alley in the arcade on Deck 7. I also enjoyed the Garage Club, a ’50s car-themed room that is a teen club by day and a bar at night.

One thing yet to be determined on the Seaside is whether MSC has tailored the food and service to American sensibilities. Onorato said it has. He said past perceptions of indifferent service and Euro-centric foods are the legacy of a time when the North American market was an afterthought for Geneva-based MSC.

That changed several years ago, Onorato said, and the Seaside will reflect all that MSC has learned about appealing to North American passengers. The reality, he said, is that improvements have been made and should be evident onboard the Seaside.

“Obviously, it takes time for those improvements to be fully acknowledged by everyone,” he said.