The new MSC Virtuosa features five specialty restaurants including two new specialty dining concepts: HOLA! Tacos & Cantina and Indochine., according to Jacques van Staden, vice president of food and beverage.
Staden said that the HOLA! Concept offers a street-food style Latin American and Mexican dining concept while the Indochine restaurant is the company’s original concept based on Vietnamese classics with a French twist.
“The menu will include a host of vegetarian and vegan options, as well as a multitude of tasty options that can be served family style,” Staden said.
While the Virtuosa debuted in May, the Seashore was set to cruise in August, with a number of updated dining venues.
“The marketplace buffet is completely re-designed to give guests the feeling they are in a real marketplace,” van Staden said.
The new look means passengers will dine in three distinct areas with different designs and ambiences – Il Mercato, La Piazza and La Trattoria. In addition, the buffet now has new outdoor aft dining area as part of the Sky Bar, adding to its 1,100 indoor seats.
Also new is the Chef’s Court on Deck 8, housing the ships five alternating restaurants, highlighted by HOLA! Tacos & Cantina, Butcher’s Cut with a new alfresco dining area, the Kaito Sushi Bar, now featuring conveyor belt food delivery, Kaito Teppanyaki, and Ocean Cay, the company’s seafood restaurant
“The MSC Yacht Club is now extended to offer private fine-dining restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner with an a la carte menu with chef’s specials,” van Staden added.
MSC’s buffet venue is now staffed by waiters and features sit-down service with carefully managed guest flows.
“We introduced a new service concept where the guests select what they want, and the food is plated and handed to them to take back to their table to ensure that the highest level of health and hygiene measures are followed,” van Staden explained. “Similarly, all meals and drinks in all of our restaurants, bars and lounges are served to guests at their table.”
It’s a fully contactless experience if a guest wants, with restaurant and bar menus available via QR code.
2021 and Beyond
“Today, people want more options and choices, they are also keen to try new things,” van Staden told Cruise Industry News. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, people are even more conscious on priorities set on well-being, so the way they are eating and selecting their food and drink have to fit into this.”
Among the trends is direct-to-table and farm-to-table concepts, he said, putting a higher quality on sourcing and quality ingredients for the company’s purchasing department.
“We have taken this into consideration for our upcoming newbuilds, including the MSC World Europa, which will offer next-level dining, not limited to geographical boundaries, but based around seasonality and carefully curated immersive experiences.”
Debuting in late 2022, the new World-class vessel will see a focus on artisanal and craft products, particularly in the variety of bars and lounges, as well as new gourmet dining concepts.
Casual dining isn’t going away, however, van Staden said.
“Street food comes as the perfect combination for our guests to order dishes and drinks easily shared and enjoyed.”
What does he recommend? van Staden pointed to the Indochine Restaurant.
“There are plenty of delicious dishes to choose from Green Papaya Salads, French Roasted Snails to Veggie Vietnamese Crêpes. We made sure the Indochine restaurant offers healthy and balanced options, with careful combinations of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and hot flavors,” van Staden said, adding the wine list has been carefully matched to the menu, with both new and old world options.
If he had to pick one dish, he said it would be the Beef Bo Bun, which is tender beef cooked on a skewer, served over a big bowl of flat noodles, greens, a broth and more beef.
With a quickly growing fleet of ships, multiple ship classes and worldwide deployment, how does van Staden define the dining experience aboard the MSC fleet?
“With an array of different international restaurant concepts including, pan-Asian, traditional American steakhouses as well as Latin American and Mexican-inspired, we want to create gourmet dining experiences for our guests,” he said. “Our goal is to offer something for every palate and preference, providing a diverse array of outstanding international culinary experiences.”
Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Summer 2021