MSC Expands in North America

New England/Canada itinerary a precursor to more ships

By: By Marilyn Green

MSC Magnifica // (c) 2010 MSC Cruises

MSC Magnifica // (c) 2010 MSC Cruises

At a time when the emphasis on new deployment seems to lean more to Europe than North America, MSC Cruises is expanding its itineraries from U.S. and Canadian ports and looking toward an increased presence in the region.

This year, the Italian line is offering its first Canada and New England cruises aboard the brand-new 2,500-passenger Magnifica on seven-day sailings between New York City and Quebec City that can be booked back-to-back for a roundtrip 14-day cruise. The ship calls at Sydney, Nova Scotia; Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston; and Newport, R.I., with two days at sea. The new sailings follow an 18-day transatlantic cruise from Venice, Italy, arriving in late September, and they continue through October. After her Northeast season, which MSC believes will be fueled by the large population of Italian-Americans in the region, Magnifica will join the 1,560-passenger Lirica in Fort Lauderdale for the 2010-2011 season in the Caribbean.

The company’s visibility in North America is certainly growing, and MSC USA president and CEO Rick Sasso said they increased their number of U.S. guests in the Mediterranean by about half last year, which he attributes to the comparative value of cruise over land. He said it is likely that MSC will soon place more ships in North America, and establish a year-round presence.

MSC has quietly evolved into a major player position since its parent company, Mediterranean Shipping Company (the second largest container shipper in the world), branched into cruising. The line has 11 ships currently in operation and another scheduled for delivery in March 2010, and claims the most modern fleet in the world after a $7 billion investment program started in 2003.

“We are the fastest growing cruise line in the history of the industry,” cruise veteran Sasso stated. “Nobody has gone from 3,000 berths to 23,000 berths in six years.”

MSC has gained quick visibility with features like its baseball legends cruise; its MSC Yacht Club private connoisseurs’ area; and the policy that allows kids under 17 to sail free on all cruises. Itineraries include North and South America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and South Africa.

Sasso said MSC’s new cruises out of New York recall the Home Lines/Sitmar white-glove era.

“This is a privately owned Italian company that has come back to homeport and reintroduce a type of product that was familiar 30 years ago,” he said. “We offer gracious cruising and elegant hardware with an owner who is very interesting in ensuring that the product delivers on its promise. It’s not a commodity to us; we think of the customer first, not the analysts.”

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