The Cruise Industry’s Largest Convention Begins
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Today marked the official start of the Cruise Shipping Miami convention in Miami, Florida. South Beach, to be precise. There’s something remarkably odd about walking down Lincoln Road during the height of Spring Break in a suit and a tie, and yet, a sea of well-dressed cruise executives, employees, public relations folks, and media made their way to the Miami Beach Convention Center for the official kick-off festivities.
I didn’t go to the opening keynote address, because to me it’s a bit like preaching to the choir: I know why cruising is amazing. I know why this industry is wonderful. I need no convincing! That, and a thousand people are literally all live-tweeting about the event; I can literally walk the trade floor and keep up with what’s happening across the way in the Ballroom.
What I did do instead was to meet with some of my favorite cruise lines to see what’s shaking this year, and what they have in the pipeline.
One of the most exciting reveals at this year’s conference came from MSC Cruises, which continued to pull the covers back on their MSC Seaside project – the largest ship the line has ever built, and surely one of the most original concepts at sea. She will also be the largest ship that Italian cruise manufacturer Fincantieri has ever built.
MSC revealed that upon her completion, MSC Seaside will sail across the Atlantic to Miami, Florida, where she will be based and christened in November of 2017. Capable of carrying 4,140 guests, the 154,000 GT ship will feature a number of firsts for MSC, including a spectacular aft atrium coupled with a seaside resort-style “promenade” that wraps around the entire vessel, culminating with an open-aft deck space with a swimming pool.
“The Seaside class of ships is part of MSC Cruises’ $5.3 billion fleet expansion plan that will allow the company to double its capacity by 2022,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises. “Today is a very exciting day for the company as this is the first major announcement related to the company’s new builds and demonstrates our enthusiasm and long-term commitment to continuing to expand our presence in North America.”
Details about the new ship are still emerging, but the line revealed it is working with Vancouver, BC-based WhiteWater West to develop an entire Aquapark concept that includes 525-foot long high-speed AquaTubes and an entirely new feature called Slideboarding:
In an industry first, MSC Seaside will add to the thrills of traditional waterpark fun by offering guests the chance to participate in “Slideboarding™” – a unique waterslide and interactive video game all-in-one. Guests race down a two-story, 367 foot slide on a sleekly designed raft that includes an embedded game controller with colored buttons. The end goal – match the color of the flashing strobe lights seen on various sections of the slide with the colored buttons on the raft. The slide uses a smart gaming system that knows who riders are and tracks their progress and scores over the run down the waterslide.
“MSC Cruises has the unique opportunity to provide North American guests with a ‘Mediterranean Style Cruise’ experience that no other line is able to offer, and guests from around the world a unique setting as it sails to the most sought-after destinations in the Caribbean” added Onorato. “Since bringing MSC Divina to Miami in November 2013, we’ve seen significant demand from consumers in the product, excellent support from our travel agent partners and the growing need for additional MSC Cruises’ ships in the market.”
When I first started cruising back in 1998, the idea of shipboard internet was laughable. Then along came the Norwegian Sky in 1999 – the very first ship to have an internet café at sea.
Today, shipboard internet is commonplace, but it struggles to keep pace with the number of technological devices we use on a day-to-day basis. Shipboard internet provider MTN is working to change that by increasing bandwidth, developing new satellite technologies and compression methods to squeeze the maximum amount of data possible into each byte, and through developing better shipboard systems.
MTN is also looking to change how people buy their internet onboard. Recognizing that the person who is checking their email isn’t using bandwidth in the same way that the person uploading selfies to Facebook is. Therefore, the company is slowly making the move to data-based pricing plans, similar to what I experienced aboard Carnival Freedom this past February: packages priced for social media use, packages for casual users, and packages for power users. Pricing can be per-voyage, or per-day.
We’ll have an in-depth look at the new technologies MTN is employing in an in-depth article here on From the Deck Chair.
Holland America Line
I have to admit: I