MSC Cruises USA Executive Vice President Ken Muskat says the cruise line wants to keep you working.
“MSC is doing its part in job security as it relates to the trade,” joked Muskat. “Seriously, we’re going from carrying 1.7 million passengers annually today to 5 million in 2026. We’ve got 11 new ships on order. That’s a lot of capacity that we need travel agents to help fill for us.”
In North America specifically, the need starts with recognizing the differences of MSC’s new private destination in the Bahamas along with the enhancements being made on MSC Divina and the differences that MSC Seaside will bring to the Caribbean.
Divina and Seaside, along with other MSC ships in the region will be calling at the MSC Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, due to open in December 2017, just in time for Seaside’s maiden voyage. “It will be the 1st time any line with a private destination has a ship that stays at the island until midnight,” says Muskat. “This is going to be both an entire day experience and an entire night experience. It’s going to be a whole different experience during the day than at night.”
Ocean Cay is being built specifically as a continuation of the shipboard experience. “If you’re in the Yacht Club on Seaside or Divina, when you get off the ship and onto the private island destination, you’re going to go to the Yacht Club exclusive beach area. Your butler from on board is going to be the butler who serves you in the exclusive beach area. We’re also going to have restaurants, bars and we’re going to have an exclusive arena area dedicated to outstanding island entertainment.”
Despite the Caribbean excitement, Europe will remain a key focus for the line. “We have the most capacity in Europe right now out of anybody, and we don’t want to lose that,” says Muskat. “We as a brand will continue to maintain our strength in Europe.”
But for the North American cruiser, the Caribbean is seen as the prime gateway market. “From North America, we get significantly more business for the Caribbean than we do for Europe,” Muskat says. “With Divina year-round and with Seaside coming, the Caribbean is a primary focus for the North American market. Many people are learning about our brand for the 1st time and trying it in the Caribbean for the 1st time.”
Hence, Divina needs to succeed. “The emphasis now is really around the continued product evolution on Divina,” continues Muskat. “The big focus is on customer service and training. We have changed the way we hire crew. English speaking is a key priority of ours. We’ve already replaced a huge amount of the crew on Divina with experienced, English-speaking, very well-trained crew members.”
“We’ve got 12 ships; we’re growing to 23,” says Muskat. “Right now I’m selling North Americans on Divina, Seaside and MSC Meraviglia.” Making its debut in May 2017, Meraviglia will offer 7-night western Med sailing from Barcelona with Cirque du Soleil on board.
Then comes MSC Seaside, which Muskat says will be the 1st MSC ship specifically built with the North American market in mind. “Seaside is a warm weather product. It’s very much an outdoor product and includes celebrity chefs like Roy Yamaguchi, an expanded Yacht Club including a restaurant within the Yacht Club area, and a whole new generation of staterooms that appeal to the multi-generational market.
“We have 3 staterooms that will serve up to 10 people as well as 2-story loft suites. The overall structure of the ship alone is going to be very, very different.”