MSC IS BACK AND TAKING CANADA BY STORM
MSC Cruises celebrated its return to Canada after four years with a series of visits by travel advisors in Saint John, NB; Charlottetown; and Halifax last week as it heads into the fall season for a series of cruises in the Maritime region on return itineraries out of New York.
Travel Industry Today accompanied close to three dozen New Brunswick agents in St. John for a visit of the MSC Meraviglia, which included lunch and a presentation by MSC Business Development Manager Tammy Thompson during the ship inspection.
“Agents tell us, you’re coming out of nowhere,” Thompson said, but she noted that MSC is the third largest cruise line in the world and one that notably “owns the Med.”
A cargo giant, family-owned MSC entered the leisure cruise business in 2003 and has been growing ever since, and will boast 23 ships by 2026. After introducing the Euribia in June, next up is the MSC World America, due to launch in April in 2025.
The fastest-growing cruise line in the world, the MSC fleet currently sails around the globe (except the two poles) and counts a growing presence in the Persian Gulf region – Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar – among its unique attributes.
There are also “Grand Voyages” of 10 to 30-night duration, and featuring 80 ports in 2022-23, plus a “World” cruises. In 2025, the global voyage, aboard the MSC Magnifica will visit 50 destinations on four continents over the course of 116 nights.
As such, MSC’s presence is certainly registering with consumers, Thompson says, with inquiries to its call centre demonstrating an increasing level of knowledge and sophistication.
Nevertheless, she says, MSC’s mission continues to be to “get on the radar” in Canada, adding, “we’re the new boys in North America, but were really growing.”
And that’s especially good news for Atlantic Canada, where the 5,642-passenger Meraviglia will sail 10- and 11-day itineraries this Fall in the region – and return next April-May and again in Fall, 2024, thereby benefitting local communities along the coast as passengers spend at local restaurants and shops, and book local shore excursions.
Research has shown that the combined economic benefit from cruise ships in Halifax and Sydney is more than $225 million annually, more than $68 million a year in Saint John, and $42.4 million in Charlottetown (and the Island) over a 12-month period.
Ian Patterson, Country Manager, MSC Cruises Canada, says, “The return of MSC Meraviglia to Eastern Canada after four years is a cause for celebration. Our guests will be able to enjoy experiencing the beauty and the tranquility found in the region and we believe the sailings will benefit the local economies of the ports and local destinations that the ship will visit.”
Thompson believes the cruise line’s Canadian office similarly shows a statement of intent by MSC in the Canadian market (it is the only cruise line to have a permanent office here), not least with a staff of about 30 and a bilingual call centre, including three, and soon to be four, BDMs covering the country to assist the trade.
Benefits for the travel trade and consumers includes Canadian-specific sales and marketing efforts, Canadian pricing, and the ability to communicate with staff based in this country – in both official languages.
Who is the client?
Coloured with European heritage and character, and symbolized by signature Swarovski crystal staircases (on newer ships), MSC targets slightly more cultured cruisers, Thompson says, noting that foodies will also appreciate the attention to detail, and produce – some made on board – of the culinary program. And the pizza, he maintains, is the best at sea, bar none.
MSC’s three ideal clients include:
- Sophisticated travellers drawn to foreign cultures and who prefer cosmopolitan environments with higher-end amenities
- Open-minded clients interested in the world around them and who are open to meeting new people and new experiences, and,
- Learning families, who use holidays as a teaching experience, where they can spend as much time as possible with their children.
Meanwhile, those seeking an elevated experience can choose the Yacht Club, a boutique hotel within the ship experience that provides a “pristine, private” space featuring private club lounge, restaurant and bar, sundeck with whirlpool, butler service, priority check in, and much more.
With so many ships and so much information to manage, MSC has a user-friendly agent portal – MSC Book – offering a plethora of sales and marketing tools, plus quick-glance information and quotes, groups, sales offers, and educational training in the four-course MSC Master.
There are also agent rates and incentives, and extra commission that can be earned by booking drink and dining packages, spa treatments, and fly-and-cruise packages to Fort Lauderdale and Martinique/Guadeloupe.
Meanwhile MSC’s future cruise program refers clients who book their next cruise while on board a current voyage back to the original booking agent.
“We’re making a lot of noise in the Canadian market,” Thompson enthuses, adding, “and we’re taking the cruise by storm. We’re the third largest cruise line, but we’re going for No. 1.”
Sustainability & Ocean Cay
The cruise division of MSC Group is committed to being a net zero GHG emissions brand by 2050 and reports that the emissions intensity of its ship operations has decreased by 33.5% since 2008. Future goals include achieving a 40% reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050. To do so, the cruise company says it is embracing new technologies and switching to non-carbon and renewable fuels, while contributing to the development of scalable solutions that can be used universally.
But it’s not all about carbon and fuel. Another example of MSC’s commitment to sustainability is found in Ocean Cay, the company’s private island in the Bahamas, which had suffered from decades of industrial activities, including aragonite sand mining. In 2015, MSC Cruises took responsibility for the island and embarked on an ambitious restoration initiative, collaborating with the Government of The Bahamas, leading universities, marine scientists, and conservationists to restore the island’s ecosystems.
Through substantial investment, the restoration project has already seen nearly 5,000 trees and 75,000 indigenous plants, flowers and shrubs planted on the island, revitalising the terrestrial environment. Meanwhile the health of the surrounding waters is demonstrated by the now flourishing marine life, which includes the presence of loggerhead sea turtles, and the launch in 2019 of MSC Foundation’s ‘Super Coral Program’ to restore the island’s coral reefs.
The MSC Foundation is plans to further the work and engage the attention of many thousands of cruise visitors every year, raising awareness of the urgent need for ocean conservation efforts worldwide.
First published at Travel Industry Today