Coming to America28 April 2023
With 300 years in the business of sailing, MSC Cruises’ passion for the sea is unlike no other. As the third-largest cruise brand in the world, the line has set its sights on the US to expand its presence. Phoebe Galbraith speaks to Rubén Rodríguez, president of MSC Cruises USA, to find out more.
The US has a long history of immigration. When we think of chartering a ship there, it conjures up images of the Mayflower and its pilgrims setting sail for the New World, in often depraved conditions for the 14-week-long journey across the Atlantic.
Thanks to the onset of steam technology and the cruise industry redefining sea travel, today travelling to the US has never been so luxurious. Yet, the innovation doesn’t stop there. Instead, the industry we know and love is continuing to find new ways to offer its guests the best experience at sea. Having chartered its first cruise ship back in the 70s, MSC has similarly come a long way to be the third-biggest and fastest-growing cruise brand. Now it has set its sights on the US, and with Rubén Rodríguez, president of MSC Cruises USA, at the helm, the company is making significant strides in the market.
“We remain committed to our expansion in the US market, adding new homeports and deploying the most modern, innovative ships here,” says Rodríguez. “We also continue to invest in the development of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, our stunning private island destination in the Bahamas, and our state-of-the art terminal at PortMiami, set to be the largest and most technologically advanced cruise terminal in North America when it opens.”
In light of the pandemic and the simultaneous shutdown for many industries, MSC Cruises maintained its growth plans throughout in the form of modern, glamorous ships sailing from an increased number of ports.
“Our latest flagship, MSC Seascape, was officially named in New York City at the end of 2022 and is currently sailing from Miami,” adds Rodríguez. “It’s the second new ship we’ve introduced in the US market since Autumn 2021 and it further demonstrates our ambition to bring our modern, innovative fleet to American guests.”
Following its successful launch of service at Port Canaveral in 2021, MSC will be taking the next steps in its plans for the US by entering the New York City market year-round with MSC Meraviglia, starting April 2023. By the end of the year, explains Rodríguez, MSC is planning to offer its largest-ever US presence. It expects to have five ships deployed over the winter 2023–24 season including MSC Meraviglia from New York City, MSC Seashore from Port Canaveral/Orlando, with MSC Divina and MSC Magnifica joining MSC Seascape in Miami.
“The majority of our sailings from our US ports will call at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, which serves as both a stunning tropical destination and a reflection of our commitment to the environment,” says Rodríguez.
MSC is also increasing its sales staffing and support in order to assist this rapid growth, while investing in other channels such as e-commerce. “These measures will line up with a significant increase in marketing efforts, via both online and offline media, driving not only brand awareness but also traffic and bookings across all our sales channels,” he adds.
Exploring the New World
2023 is exciting year for MSC, as Rodríguez explains, as it is the first time the cruise line will operate year-round sailing from New York City, with a mix of cruises to Florida, the Bahamas, Bermuda, New England and Canada. “The new itineraries and destinations will broaden our North American offering and provide more access to guests and trade partners,” he says.
“We designed our mix of itineraries to take advantage of New York’s geographic flexibility, so that our guests can soak up the sun in the Caribbean during the spring and winter seasons, head to Bermuda during the late summer or go north to see Canada’s natural beauty in the autumn.
“Outside of New York City, we see a particularly strong response to short cruises, which offer a great way to discover what cruising is all about. We’re offering many three and four-night options from our Florida ports, and will continue to diversify and enhance these itineraries,” says Rodríguez.
The main feature of MSC Cruise’s shorter cruises is Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, just 60 miles off Florida’s coast. Rodríguez explains that this allows many of MSC’s short cruises to stay docked past sunset or overnight, and still return to port. “Our guests tell us they love enjoying the island’s natural beauty and abundant sunshine during the day, and then transitioning into night-time activities after dinner like our lighthouse shows, Junkanoo parade and dance party on the beach.”
A big market
Plans for MSC’s expansion don’t stop there, however, with plans to launch MSC World America in the summer of 2025. Set to be its largest ship in the US, it measures 22 decks tall, more than 150ft wide and with more than 2,600 cabins, MSC World America is predicted to raise the bar on traveller expectations.
“MSC World America is testament to the continuation of our growth plans in the US and the Caribbean, and it further solidifies MSC Cruises as a major player in the North American market,” says Rodríguez. “MSC World America will offer the future of cruising, with ground-breaking design, unique dining experiences and unforgettable on-board entertainment.
“In addition to delivering a state-of-the-art cruise experience, MSC World America will exemplify our commitment to sustainability with its advanced environmental technology. She will be our first liquefied natural gas-powered ship to be deployed in North America and yet another of our flagships to be customised for the American market.”
MSC’s latest ship, MSC Seascape, joined the fleet in December 2022 to bring the total to 21 ships. Specifically designed for the North American market, it is MSC’s second ship in its Seaside EVO class to enter the fleet and the fourth in the innovative Seaside class, which has been redefining guest expectation since its original 2017 launch in Miami. The ship represents MSC’s vision of creating the ultimate Caribbean cruises experience to connect guests to the ocean with beautifully designed outdoor spaces.
“MSC Seascape aims to connect guests with the sea; she offers a wealth of outdoor spaces allowing guests to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Caribbean, where she will spend her inaugural season,” said Gianni Onorato, chief executive officer of MSC Cruises in a press release. With a 1,772ft-long waterfront promenade and six swimming pools – including a stunning infinity pool that makes use of the incredible ocean views – it’s clear that the latest edition to the fleet is a cut above the rest, especially if you head to deck 16 to get a unique view of the sea through its glass-floored Bridge of Sighs.
Guests also have a chance to experience the thrill of the ROBOTRON ride, a state-of-the-art robotic arm with a gondola attached that flies guests nearly 180ft above the sea. “Riders have an unobstructed 360° view of the horizon as they hang over the edge of the deck; twisting and turning in different directions and flipping upside down,” describes Rodríguez.
“With 11 dining venues, plus 19 bars and lounges, MSC Seascape also brings a world of flavour and al fresco options for dining and drinking. She is also home to one of the largest and most luxurious MSC Yacht Club spaces in our fleet, with approximately 32,000ft2 of space featuring sweeping ocean views from the front of the ship.”
The ship also features six new entertainment productions that offer 98 hours of exclusive onboard entertainment with interactive elements. There’s also 700m2 of dedicated kid’s space, cuttingedge amusement options and a newly designed space for ages 0–7. In confirmation of MSC’s long-standing commitment to sustainability, MSC Seascape features some of the latest environmental technologies available at sea. For example, selective catalytic reduction systems that reduce levels of nitrogen oxide by up to 90% by converting it into nitrogen and water; a hybrid exhaust gas cleanings system that will remove 98% of sulphur oxide from emissions; and the best-in-class wastewater treatment systems with a purification standard higher than most facilities found on land.
Guest can experience the MSC Seascape on two different seven-night itineraries from Miami to the Caribbean. If MSC’s latest cruise ship is anything to go by for the line’s expansion into the US, then guests have a lot to look forward to in the years to come. As Rodríguez is keen to emphasis for the future of MSC Cruises, “we look forward to raising the bar on what travellers can expect, whether they’re loyal cruisers or enjoying their first holiday at sea”.