“We took a leadership role, going back into service last August with protocols and the approvals of the Italian, Greek and Maltese governments,” said Achille Staiano, vice president of global sales for MSC Cruises.
“The protocols we put in place have proven that they work very well,” he continued. “Our guests are virtually traveling in a safe bubble and can do anything onboard. They can go to the bar, the spa, the swimming pools, the restaurants. We are sanitizing all areas and everyone respects social distancing.
“We are seeing very positive reviews by passengers on social media. They say they feel safe, they feel well taken care of, and understand that we are taking every precaution to ensure their safety and health, and also for our crew.”
Starting with Italy, Greece and Malta, Staiano said the company also has ongoing talks with governments, health authorities and ports in other countries. And with the acceleration of vaccinations, he expects that more countries will be opening up again, which will enable MSC to increase its deployment in the Mediterranean as well as Northern Europe.
The MSC Grandiosa, which first resumed service last year, will be joined by the MSC Seaside, starting service on May 1. Furthermore, the new MSC Seashore slated for delivery from Fincantieri this summer is expected to launch service in the Mediterranean in August and then move to Miami for the winter.
Staiano said that while MSC Cruises is the largest brand in Europe, South America, the Gulf and South Africa, it is also committed to growing its deployment in the Caribbean and was already sailing year-round before the pandemic.
The MSC Seashore and Divina both stay in the Caribbean for summer 2022.
China is also a market with huge potential, Staiano said, and MSC Cruises is determined to tap into that potential.
“The Bellissima is our ship in China, but we are planning to double our capacity there, and eventually continue to grow across Asia. The sooner, the better.”
At press time, plans called for the Virtuosa to go to China in 2022.
With more ships, Staiano said MSC is also working with existing and new destinations and discussing enhancement of facilities to accommodate the larger volumes of passengers carried by the larger ships.
Planning ship deployments also means that MSC is working to reduce its impact on the environment by reducing emissions, installing equipment for shorepower and studying alternative fuels, like LNG.
“We are already the widest distributed (cruise) brand in the world,” Staiano contined. “We carry some 184 different nationalities among our guests on our standard seven-day Mediterranean cruise. And what we used to call emerging markets, we now call new markets, and they represent major pillars among our source markets. So, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, and other countries – give us the opportunity for further growth.
“While we listen to our markets and where people want to go, our current cruises are the result of us fine-tuning the itineraries based on our experience,” Staiano said.
“Itineraries are a very important component of a cruise.
“We offer up to seven ports in seven days, but the operation of the ship and shoreside tours limit how much time we can spend in each destination. However, as people become more experienced cruisers, maybe in the future we can spend more time in one, two or three ports and thus reduce the number of ports we go to. Some of the destinations deserve more time to be properly explored.”