MSC Cruises reveals details of the private island

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Gallery: First pictures of MSC Cruises’ private island Ocean Cay revealed

MSC Cruises’ new private island in the Caribbean will give guests a “ticket to paradise”, according to chief executive Gianni Onorato.

Ocean Cay, 20 miles off the coast of the Bahamas and 65 miles from Miami, will boast eight “pristine” beaches, seven reserved for different guests, such as families, Yacht Club or Aurea Spa passengers, and one for the crew.

There will also be a sunset beach, lagoon beach and main beach where all water sports and activities will take place. Water sports will include snorkelling to a shallow sunken shipwreck through to scuba diving.

Lectures on the coral life around the island and what MSC has done to clean up and preserve it will be offered, something Onorato felt would be popular with younger guests and children.

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Every Caribbean itinerary from Miami, whether sailing to the Eastern or Western Caribbean, will call at Ocean Cay. Onorato said: “Because it’s so close to Miami, we can stay there until 1am so people can experience it at night and still be back in Miami for 6am the following morning.”

Guests will be able to watch movies under the stars with their feet in the sand.

Food will include a family buffet and a food cart going around the island, but the ship’s restaurants will remain open all day as many guests are expected to go back on board to eat. The furthest point of the island is a 17-minute walk from the ship and “completely flat”, Onorato said.

Deckchairs and some activities will be included in the cruise price, but cabanas, cocktails, island Wi-Fi, and certain sports like scuba diving will be extra. All will be bookable through package upgrades via the MSC app.

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Onorato also revealed there would be a second private island, for groups of 30-40 people, that could be booked out exclusively for the day. He said this would be a perfect upsell for travel agents. Costs for this and other extras would be added to the website at the end of the month.

The island will have three shops; one selling Bahamian goods manned by locals, one selling Ocean Cay-branded merchandise and the other selling MSC items.

Onorato said it was his “dream” to open an island in the Mediterranean but explained that the only location it would be possible to have an island open year-round, off the North African coast, was currently out of bounds.

“We will have to wait, but it is my dream to open a private island in the Mediterranean at some point,” he said.

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Special Report: MSC outlines ambitions for the new fleet

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The line’s bosses gave the most detail yet about the project at a Travel Weekly executive lunch. Harry Kemble reports

MSC Cruises’ chief executive is yet to decide whether to name his new fleet of luxury vessels after its current premium offering, The Yacht Club and asked UK agents for their views.

The line confirmed industry rumours in October that it would be entering the luxury sector by announcing plans to launch four ships from 2023.

Speaking at a Travel Weekly executive lunch for 25 top agents from the UK and Ireland, Gianni Onorato said: “The new ships will have a different brand name to the rest of the fleet. That name is yet to be decided, however.”

Asked if the new luxury ships would be called The Yacht Club, he replied: “I don’t know yet. Maybe. What do you all think?”

Iglu senior vice-president for global supply Simone Clark said she thought he should keep The Yacht Club name for the fleet of newer, smaller, more upmarket vessels since it was established and recognised among the trade and customers.

But Onorato confirmed there would be differences in the new fleet, compared with the luxury area that exists on seven MSC ships.

“We want to position it so it will be like The Yacht Club,” he said. “But the luxury ships will be really different vessels.”

He said the key difference is the luxury ships would sail to different destinations and offer multiple durations, with more flexibility.

“Our customers are saying they do not want seven-night cruises – they want something more. That is why we are investing in luxury,” he added.

Onorato said there would also be a major difference in the food and entertainment found on the new luxury ships, compared with that currently offered on the mainstream ones.

“There will be extra food options, as well as different – and more – entertainment available. It will be a different experience, more luxurious. Cuisine will feature ‘cultured cooking’.”

Onorato also hinted that pricing on the luxury ships would not match that found in MSC Yacht Club. “The pricing today for MSC Yacht Club is really not very much money,” he said.

Families would be welcome on board, and Onorato hopes to transfer MSC Yacht Club passengers to the luxury ships.

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Private island

MSC Cruises revealed that guests would be able to spend evenings at its new private island, as well as staying overnight. The line will open Ocean Cay (pictured) in the Caribbean next year. [This Travel Weekly executive lunch took place in November 2018]

Onorato said it would offer “cinema under the stars”. “Our guests will be able to watch movies on the beach with the sand between their toes,” he said.

He also revealed that couples who want to have “a special night” will be able to sleep in private beach accommodation elsewhere on the island.

Onorato, who visited Ocean Cay last month to see trees being planted, confirmed that travel agents would be able to sell a one-night stay on Ocean Cay to customers. “The island will be unique and an extension of the ship,” he added.

Onorato explained that his island was being transformed from a former sand extraction site into a marine reserve and private destination, where more than 100 environmentally friendly structures, such as bars, restaurants and housing, are being built. He said he hoped Ocean Cay would be “an example” to other cruise lines who owned private islands, due to its sustainable credentials.

He added that the island’s food offering would be limited because the ships are going to be so close and will have all the services on board for guests to go back and enjoy.

Agent pledge

Antonio Paradiso, the line’s UK & Ireland managing director, issued a bold promise to agents as he revealed that MSC Cruises was entering the final phase of a three-year plan to boost its profile in the UK.

After consolidating its place in the UK market, Paradiso said phase two had been to make “huge investments” to strengthen the UK sales team.

Steve Williams, director of sales, and Rebecca Kelly, regional head of sales in Ireland, were both named as two examples of this investment.

Paradiso said further improving MSC Masters, the line’s online training platform, which launched in August, was phase three.

“We are not going to stop until we have visited the last agent on this island,” he said.

World-class ships

MSC Cruises’ four new 200,000-ton ‘World-class’ vessels will be a combination of both Seaside class and Meraviglia class, according to Onorato.

The chief executive said: “MSC Meraviglia was a change more inside than outside, whereas MSC Seaside was more about the outside. Then we have World-class ships, which will combine the innovation we have seen with Seaside class outside and the internal innovation of Meraviglia class.”

The four new World-class ships are scheduled for delivery in 2022, 2024, 2025 and 2026.

To put the size into perspective, Royal Caribbean International’s four Oasis-class ships are all in excess of 220,000 tons, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest ship, Bliss, weighs just over 168,000 tons.

Top-level service

MSC Cruises has 17 vessels on order between now and 2027, and the constantly expanding fleet means crew members must be recruited rapidly. More than 50,000 new personnel have been trained and brought onto the ships to serve passengers.

Onorato identified onboard service as a key area he wants to continue improving.

“We have made big investments across the world and set up recruitment offices,” he said. “At the offices, we have recreated the ship with a mock-up cabin and restaurant.

“At the end of this process, we will have the best ships on the market.”

He also pledged to get crew members introducing themselves to passengers before they have even boarded the ship.

“Today, the customers, or the travel agents in some cases, will receive a message from the cabin [crew],” he said.

“This means that when the customers board the ship they can begin their holiday. It is something that will improve the customer experience, and make [travel agents’] jobs easier.”

MSC Cruises enhances dining experience

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MSC Cruises introduces – starting with MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside – even greater dining options with added flexibility on how, when and where to dine on board

MSC Cruises revealed today new dining concepts that will be available first to guests on MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside. Designed to meet the needs of today’s cruise guests, the two ships – the first two of a total of 11 new mega-ships due to come into service starting this year, in June and December, respectively – will introduce highly flexible dining options and a choice of dining packages that can be booked at any time prior to embarkation as well as whilst on board. All of which means that MSC Cruises guests can dine as they want, when they want and in an even wider range of speciality restaurants and international dining experiences.

MSC Cruises’ Head of Product Development and Guest Experience, Andrea Gangale, commented: “At MSC Cruises, we strive to create memorable holiday experiences for our guests whilst they are on board one of our cruise ships. And dining is and has always been a key feature of our offering.”

Mr Gangale continued: “We are driving innovation in cruising at many levels, now also in the onboard dining experience. The new dining concepts are being introduced to cater to the needs of today’s cruise guests, who are looking for flexibility and choices. Starting with MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside, we are introducing new ways for guests to manage their choices – through cutting-edge onboard technology – and offering an even greater selection of international restaurants to deliver culinary experiences from around the world, all of this so that guests can enjoy their holiday even more.”

New Dining Styles

One of the new dining concepts that MSC Cruises is introducing is Flexi Dining. This new dining style allows guests to pre-select a time slot for their evening meal, with the ability to change it at any time during their cruise. This way guests can get the most out of their holiday by more easily adapting the dining experience around their plans for each day.

The Classic cruise dining experience will still be available, with a choice of two sittings each evening. This traditional dining style is popular with guests who prefer a dedicated table each night so that they can enjoy personalised service from the same waiter who will know them by name, know their dining preferences and how to accommodate them. This way, they can also socialise with the same guests each evening.

In addition to this, MSC Yacht Club guests will also benefit from free-time dining in the dedicated MSC Yacht Club restaurant, with the option of reserving a table in advance if one so desires.

Casual dining venues are available for all guests 20 hours-a-day, offering a wide range of freshly prepared dishes. The MSC Cruises buffet – already one of the richest at sea — has been further enhanced with a wide range of different international food experiences with dishes to tempt everyone’s tastes. MSC Seaside, in particular, will feature two casual dining venues, one of which will be dedicated to families, serving family-friendly options and featuring child-friendly seating.

Even More International Speciality Restaurants

Speciality restaurants are another standout feature on MSC Cruises’ ships, one that gives guests the opportunity to experience an ever-growing range of cuisines from around the world even while at sea. To this end, MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside will feature restaurants with innovative ‘open kitchens’, following the trend in restaurant design that makes dining a true sensorial experience and that allows guests to see, smell and hear expert chefs at work. Selected restaurants on MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside will also feature a Chef’s Table, a dining concept designed for those seeking a true gastronomic experience.

Following the success and popularity of the Kaito Sushi Bar, serving fresh fish, sashimi and tempura, MSC Cruises will introduce a brand new Kaito Teppanyaki restaurant on board MSC Meraviglia to complement the ship’s Kaito Sushi Bar. With a modern twist on Asian cuisine, guests can sit at the cooking stations to watch their delicious Japanese dishes come to life in front of their eyes. Expert chefs will cook with flare on an open grill – a visual spectacle and feast for the senses with flames and sizzling ingredients all coming together to form flavoursome dishes.

MSC Seaside's Asian Market Kitchen
MSC Seaside’s Asian Market Kitchen

Another new restaurant concept will be an authentic American Steakhouse – the Butcher’s Cut, celebrating the craft heritage of America blended with the skilful mastery of the butcher. Guests can select their favourite steak from glass-fronted meat ageing fridges and then watch the skilled chefs preparing their flavoursome fresh dishes in the open kitchen. The wine list is bold and features an appealing selection from the New World to complement the dishes. Cocktails are also inspired by American heritage, while guests can also savour some of the best craft beers.

A highlight of the dining on MSC Seaside will be the Asian Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi. The three distinct restaurants created by the innovative Japanese-American chef will consist of an à la carte restaurant serving gourmet Asian creations in a stylish venue with incredible sea views, a Sushi Bar and Teppanyaki Grill, each offering an authentic pan-Asian dining experience at sea.

MSC Seaside will also feature signature seafood restaurant, Ocean Cay. This stylish restaurant will serve American-style fish dishes with a Mediterranean twist. A simple menu with delicious signature dishes will include locally-sourced Stone Crabs, a delicacy in the homeport of Miami, beautiful fresh Sea Bass, flown in from the Mediterranean and homemade spaghetti alle vongole (with clams).

Even More Collaborations With Renowned Chefs

MSC Cruises is committed to partnering with world-class experts in their fields and the dining experience on the new ships is no exception. The collaboration with world-renowned chef Roy Yamaguchi on MSC Seaside extends way beyond the creation of the menus. As part of the partnership, Chef Yamaguchi will be personally involved in conceptualising and designing every element of the new pan-Asian restaurant, bringing his creative flair and vision to every single detail of the guest’s experience. This includes everything from creating the recipes, menus, selecting chinaware to enhance the dishes, music selection to create the right ambience all the way through to the wine pairings to complement the food and even the choice of the paper stock for the menus.

A long-standing partnership with two-star Michelin chef Carlo Cracco will now encompass the development of signature dishes for the main restaurant menus on MSC Meraviglia as well as for the Christmas and New Year menus. Meanwhile, on board MSC Meraviglia, a partnership with award winningFrench chocolatier and pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury will tempt guests with incredible sweet creations. Jean-Philippe Chocolat & Café will feature an open chocolate atelier whilst Jean-Philippe Crêpes & Gelato serve tasty treats that can be savoured while enjoying oneself on the ship’s Mediterranean-style promenade.

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two-star Michelin chef Carlo Cracco

The chef collaborations extend beyond the new ships as part of MSC Cruises’ focus on international fine dining. MSC Cruises is for example collaborating with international Chinese chef, Jereme Leung. Globally recognised for his contemporary interpretation of Chinese cuisine, Chef Leung’s modern approach has long caught the attention of top international restaurant critic and he has brought his contemporary Chinese cuisine to MSC Lirica. Chef Leung collaborated with MSC Cruises to design new and innovative dining concepts tailored to the tastes of Chinese guests, an exclusive range of signature dishes as well as enhancing existing menus with his creative and distinctive flair.

New Dining Packages For All Tastes

To help guests better plan their onboard dining experiences and make the most of their time on board, MSC Cruises is introducing a range of dining packages that can be booked prior to the cruise. For example:

MSC Cruises guests on board MSC Meraviglia will be able to book a Dinner & Show package where they will enjoy an exclusive table d’hôte menu and then experience the breathtaking Cirque du Soleil at Sea performance in the impressive purpose-built Carousel Lounge.

A special dining package is available for the Eataly Chef’s Table on board MSC Meraviglia, which includes a dedicated chef and sommelier for the night, seven gourmet dishes cooked to perfection and all perfectly matched with seven wines – this really is a food lover’s dream.

For those who want to explore each of the speciality restaurants, a special package can be booked in advance meaning guests can benefit from a discount on the onboard prices.

Find out about all of the new dining packages at www.msccruises.co.uk/en-gb/Already-Booked/Cruise-Upgrade/Speciality-Restaurants