MSC Meraviglia coming to America

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MSC Cruises will bring the new MSC Meraviglia to North America permanently in late 2019 to be one of three ships doing Caribbean cruises from Miami.

“The ship that will be christened in Le Havre in a few months will be coming here and will be staying here year-round,” said Roberto Fusaro, president of MSC North America.

MSC executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said in January that one of the line’s Meraviglia-class ships would be positioned in Miami for the 2019-20 winter season but hadn’t said which one.

The MSC Meraviglia is the first in a class that will include two more ships, plus a lengthened version. It will have Cirque du Soleil shows in a customized $20 million theater and will also be the first MSC ship to feature MSC for Me, the digital concierge MSC recently announced. MSC Meraviglia is scheduled to launch in June with cruises in Europe.

The MSC Meraviglia will have four water slides.

MSC currently sails the MSC Divina year-round from Miami and is scheduled to employ the new MSC Seaside from Miami starting in November 2017. Fusaro said the plan after the winter season in 2018-19 is to send the MSC Divina back to Europe for the summer, while keeping the MSC Seaside and MSC Meraviglia in Miami year-round.

At a news conference at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference, MSC Cruises president Gianni Onorato reiterated the line’s pledge to use travel agents and said it plans to continue paying commission on such things as spa treatments, shore excursions and air as it grows capacity in North America. “We have a commitment to be the easiest company to do business with and the most profitable for our trading partners,” Onorato said.

This article has been updated to reflect that the the MSC Meraviglia will be coming to Miami for the winter 2019-20 winter season, not the 2018-19 season as it previously stated.

MSC Cruises North America’s Roberto Fusaro

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MSC Meraviglia
MSC Cruises recently named Roberto Fusaro, long-time manager of its South America division, to be president of MSC Cruises North America after naming the current head, Rick Sasso, as chairman of the division. Fusaro spoke to senior editor Tom Stieghorst about his new position.

Q: Where were you born? Where did you go to school?A: I was born and raised in Argentina, in Buenos Aires. I majored in accounting and I worked on what in the U.S. would be a CPA. I worked at an accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, for a while. And then I transferred to Chicago with that firm and at the same time … I did my MBA at the University of Chicago.

Q: After Arthur Andersen, did you join the cruise industry?

A: Actually, after I left Chicago, I was working for a holding company in Milan. And Costa Crociere was looking for a CFO for a joint venture they were doing in South Florida [in 1993]. The company was called American Family Cruises. … This was my first experience with the cruise industry. I didn’t know about the industry then; I was just a finance guy. Unfortunately, the execution was very poor, so Costa decided to wind down the company after a few months, and they offered for me to go to Genoa [in Italy] to run the revenue-management department. So that’s the way I started my career in the cruise industry.

Q: When you went back to South America, what did you learn when you went to work for MSC?

A: In South America I learned a lot of things. The power of offering a good value to the market. The difficulty of dealing with some government bureaucracies. Perhaps the most instructive thing I learned in South America was the value of a private company. The difference in working for a company like MSC is having the cellphone [number] of the CEO and being able to call him at any time with a proposal, and after two or three questions he’ll give me the green light to go ahead. That was invaluable. I don’t think that MSC would have grown as it did in South America if we had to do a 10-page report to deploy more capacity. The decisions were made very quickly, and the company was very responsive to the needs of the market, and I think that’s what makes MSC different.

Q: What do you think is your strength as a manager?

A: I think my strength is in developing people and helping them to try to get to their full potential. I like to think of myself as a facilitator and company coach. One of my proudest achievements is that any time I left an executive position, my second-in-command took over.

Q: What will be the division of roles between you and Sasso as MSC grows?

A: There will be the usual division of chairman and president. Rick will look after government issues, and I will run the company on a day-to-day basis. I will have the luxury of having such a legend of the industry as a privileged adviser on major issues, but the decisions, good or bad, will be my responsibility.

Q: In the past, MSC has had some favorable terms for travel agents. What can they expect in this area?

A: We’re always going to do what’s best for the business, the company and the partners. We live by our travel agent partners and recognize that they are critical to our success. We won’t be able to get to 5 million passengers without their help. So we will continue to prioritize our partners and make it as easy as possible to work with us