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Cruise Business Exclusive: MSC plans year-round North America presence; sends first Fantasia class ship to Port Miami; discloses next generation newbuild project is on drawing board
- Category: Top Headlines
- Published on Friday, 25 May 2012 23:09
- Written by Teijo Niemelä
It has been another banner year for the Geneva-based MSC Cruises, currently the fourth largest cruise line in the world. The company has just introduced its third post-Panamax-size Fantasia-class ship MSC Divina, taken over the contract of its half-finished sister ship at the French STX France shipyard, and announced the deployment of the MSC Divina in the U.S. homeport at the end of 2013.
In a one-on-one interview with Cruise Business Review, MSC Cruises CEO Pierfrancesco Vago had just received the “keys” for the company’s largest ship so far – the 139,400 gross ton and 3,502-passenger MSC Divina.
MSC Divina is the 12th ship in the MSC Cruises fleet. It’s the 9th newbuilding the company has commissioned directly from the French shipyard STX France (known before as Chantiers de’l Atlantique) since 2003. The company has expanded a staggering 800% since its first newbuilding, and it has also purchased two sister ships of its Lirica-class that belonged to now-defunct Festival Cruises. And just in March, MSC Cruises agreed to takeover the half-finished newbuilding, now called Preziosa, that was originally ordered by a Libyan company. Thankfully, the ship is based on the same General Arrangement as the MSC Cruises’ Fantasia-class ships.
Vago describes the MSC Preziosa contract negotiations as “extremely complex, where were a lot of third parties were involved.” Even with the same GA plan, MSC Cruises needed to tweak the design, and one of the early (and easy) decisions was to eliminate a shark tank that the Libyans had planned for the ship’s atrium. MSC Preziosa will enter service in March 2013, and will complete the company’s Fantasia-class.
After that, MSC Cruises will ply a very balanced fleet with four 59,800 gross ton Lirica-class vessels, four 90,000 gross ton Musica-class ships and four 137,000 to 139,400 gross ton Fantasia-class ships. Additionally, the company also operates the 1982-built MSC Melody.
MSC Cruises is not resting its laurels: it already has its next class of newbuildings on the drawing board. According to Vago, the ships will be shorter -- but wider and taller -- as dock space in European ports especially are becoming more premium. Vago says that with the new design the company will not need to compromise the high balcony ratio of Fantasia-class ships (of which sports over 1,000 balconied cabins each).
Vago was more tight-lipped when it came to discussing how the MSC Yacht Club would evolve in the future. Still, when it comes to the future deployments Europe will continue to be a core market for the brand, and therefore there are no immediate plans to deploy a ship in, for example, China. However, the company already sources passengers globally, as it had built a comprehensive network of its own offices around the world, including emerging markets such as China and Australia. However, he admitted that the company is looking closely at a variety of new market sources. Last winter season it traded in the Persian Gulf with Abu Dhabi as its base port – next winter season MSC Cruises will operate in the Red Sea, instead.
MSC Cruises will also take a major new step into North America at the end of next year when MSC Divina will replace Poesia as its Florida-based cruise ship. To facilitate the growth from the 90,000 gross ton Poesia to 139,400 gross ton Divina, MSC Cruises will move from Port Everglades to PortMiami. MSC Divina will alternate between the Eastern and Western Caribbean, and as new ports-of-call for MSC Cruises, will introduce Falmouth in Jamaica and NCL’s private island Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.
According to MSC Cruises USA President Rick Sasso, the company expects to have a presence in the North American waters on a year-round basis beginning in 2014. MSC Lirica will offer warm weather itineraries to Bermuda and Canada/New England. During the winter season, MSC Lirica will be based in Guadeloupe.
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