“We are expanding in all our markets, deploying the new MSC Seaview in South America next winter, adding the Lirica alongside the Splendida in Dubai and moving from a smaller to a larger ship in South Africa,” Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, told Cruise Industry News in an exclusive interview.
“Obviously, we are also growing in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe,” he added, “and we will have four ships in the Caribbean for the 2019-2020 season, sailing from Miami, another ship in Cuba and one in the French West Indies.”
While the 3,274-passenger (double occupancy) Splendida has replaced the 1,984-passenger Lirica in China, she is expected to come back to Europe, being replaced by the new and larger Bellissima, which has some 600 cabins more. To be launched next March, the 171,598-ton, 4,500-passenger Bellissima will spend her first year sailing in Europe before moving to Shanghai in spring 2020.
“We are gearing up in markets we considered tactical before,” Onorato added. “Now we look upon them as strategic, like North America and the UK. They have become extremely important markets for us.
“And we are showing commitment by investing in sales and marketing organizations and efforts in these markets, as well as infrastructure, like our Bahamian out-island Ocean Cay, and we are positioning ships to serve these markets. We have designed itineraries specifically for British passengers.”
He said that MSC Cruises is positioned globally as an international brand with a strong European flavor compared to the domestic German or North American brands, for example. However, the onboard experience is customized as much as possible to be in the comfort zone of the different markets. As a result, he added, they are the largest international brand in terms of market share in Germany.
With 10 more large cruise ships on order, Onorato said: “We obviously believe there is space for our brand, and we expect to continue to grow and improve our financial results. More modern ships give us the opportunity to improve both on ticket and onboard yields.”
At the same time, Onorato said he is prioritizing the development of new ideas and innovation both in terms of the onboard product and technologies for more efficient operations and to be environmentally friendly.
The Bellissima will, for example, have a digital personal assistant in every cabin, which has been developed with Harman and Samsung and is unique to MSC Cruises. Onorato said it will help answer questions the guests may have in seven languages. They can ask about shore excursions and the digital assistant, which is connected to the TV, will turn on the TV and present the tours being inquired about.
“This is just one example of how we are becoming more customer-centric,” he added.