The line eyes “more adventurous” British travellers as its latest new ship calls at the south coast port following its naming ceremony. Jane Archer reports
In what has to be a first, MSC Cruises has celebrated the launch of not one but two new ships in Southampton within just nine months.
In March, MSC Bellissima was christened in the south coast port. In November MSC Grandiosa called in on its way to the Med following its gala naming ceremony in Hamburg.
It was supposed to stay one night but bad weather in the Bay of Biscay forced the line to change its plans and MSC Grandiosa remained in the port for another two days.
“Southampton is now linked with MSC Cruises. We will always be here,” pledged chief executive officer Gianni Onorato as the city and cruise line exchanged plaques to celebrate the ship’s visit.
Some 550 UK and Ireland retailers – a mix of MSC’s top-performing agents and others new to the line – were invited to an overnight stay on MSC Grandiosa during its Southampton call.
“We saw a spike in bookings after MSC Bellissima and I expect it again after agents have seen MSC Grandiosa,” said UK & Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso. “I believe British travellers are becoming more adventurous and prepared to try something different.”
MSC is targeting three million global passengers in 2020 and 5.5 million in 2027, by which time the line will have added another 12 ships to its fleet.
In 2021, a newly-stretched and restyled MSC Magnifica will be offering 24 ex-UK departures from Southampton between May and October. Paradiso said: “MSC Magnifica offers a great opportunity for agents and Southampton. As partners we can grow together.”
MSC Grandiosa is certainly grand. Some 15 metres longer than MSC Bellissima, it holds just over 6,300 passengers and is adorned with sparkling Swarovski staircases, acres of shiny décor and mirrored surfaces and facsimiles of great masters by the likes of Raffaello and Caravaggio with an MSC ship added.
As on MSC Bellissima, there’s an exclusive suite-only Yacht Club with 24-hour butler service, a private restaurant, sunbathing deck and pool, extensive inside and outdoor play areas for kids and teens with virtual reality games and water slides and a virtual personal assistant called Zoe in all the cabins.
Round-the-world dining options include a Spanish tapas bar, Japanese teppanyaki, US-style steakhouse and an expanded French L’Atelier Bistrot restaurant, now with its own lounge and larger bar.
Among new features, there’s a fifth main dining room, Il Campo, mainly for passengers who have paid for the Aurea Experience, and instead of selecting up or down on the lifts, you now select the deck you want, which was much more efficient.