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.

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New chief executive appointed for Carnival UK

New chief executive appointed for Carnival UKDavid Dingle has been appointed chairman of Carnival UK, with current executive vice-president of operations David Noyes (pictured) taking over as chief executive.

Noyes will have operating responsibility for P&O Cruises and Cunard from October 1, and both he and Dingle will report to Carnival Corporation president and chief executive Arnold Donald.

Donald said: “This moves allows us to strengthen further our overall leadership in the critically important UK marketplace, while also promoting from within to leverage the skills, experience and capabilities of our executive team.”

Dingle, who became chief executive in 2007, joined P&O Cruises in London in 1978 where, after holding a series of commercial positions, he became managing director in 2000. At the time of the merger of P&O Princess Cruises plc and the Carnival Corporation in April 2003, he became managing director of Carnival UK.

Noyes joined Carnival UK in 2011, in his current position.  Prior to joining Carnival, he worked in the UK travel industry for 25 years, mainly with British Airways, where he was responsible for BA’s worldwide customer services operation, and latterly with Gray Dawes Travel as chief executive.

Elaine Holt will join Carnival UK on October 1 as David Noyes’ replacement as executive vice president operations following a career in the rail, road and airline industries. She has led a series of transformational programmes as executive chairman of East Coast Mainline and before that as managing director of First Capital Connect.  Most recently she has acted as a non executive director of the Highways Agency.

Dingle said: “David Noyes is exceptionally placed to lead P&O Cruises and Cunard into the future and grow the business for the next generation. Elaine brings with her a strong blend of operational and customer services skills and will be a very valuable addition to our executive team.”

MSC sets out plans to triple UK passengers

MSC Cruises has set out ambitious plans to grow the number of UK passengers it serves.

According to chief executive Giles Hawke, the company reckons it can attract 200,000 Britons per year by 2017 – up from 60,000 today and an almost threefold increase.

Mr Hawke made these comments in an interview with Travel Weekly, mentioning a raft of new marketing initiatives intended to support the campaign.

MSC, which mostly serves the Mediterranean cruise market and recently announced it will add a further four ships to its fleet, also plans to charter three flights per week from Heathrow to ferry Britons into Italian ports.

Two of the planes will fly to Genoa, with the other landing in Venice.

In time, though, MSC wants to reintroduce Mediterranean cruises that actually depart from the UK itself, potentially by launching a Fantasia-class ship in 2016.