Last week at Seatrade Cruise Global 2016, I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Sasso (pictured above), president & CEO of MSC Cruises USA, and Luca Biondolillo, the line’s chief communications officer about what’s coming from the international company for the U.S. market.
MSC Cruises has been wildly successful in its growth in the global market at a rapid pace, but in the Americas, it’s more of an underdog story. When it first introduced the MSC Divina to year-round sailings from Miami in 2013, the ship was not ready for primetime. The hardware was pristine, but the software, read service, was decidedly subpar. Thankfully, within a year, the company dramatically turned things around and began firing on all cylinders with a premium product that better suited American tastes.
Now, the cruise line is more dedicated to the U.S. market than ever before, and its executives could not be more jazzed about the future. Sasso said, “I’m 67, and I’m like more excited than I’ve ever been.” He reflects proudly on how in just the last 18 months, the company has ordered seven ships, rededicated itself to year-round sailings from Miami (after the Divina left for awhile) and announced the new MSC Seaside – one of two new prototypes currently under construction by the line – to join her and a private island destination to service its Caribbean itineraries.
How do they do it?
“We’re private. We do things for the guest,” said Sasso. “We don’t think about other things except how to make this better, how to do it the right way. Don’t be influenced by competitors. Just do what we think is right for our brand, and it works. And it’s working for us here in a profound way.”
Biondolillo refers back to international roots as well, discussing how European cultural organizations are looking to bring some of their works onboard MSC’s other prototype – the MSC Meraviglia. He asks, “if people trust such expensive pieces of art to cruise ships, doesn’t that speak of security?”
He said, “we try to do things taking it from a different angle. It’s sort of like bringing a certain Mediterranean elegance and way of doing things but then at the same time sort of making sure that we have a number of elements that also meet certain needs that a U.S. consumer of course has.”
In the Caribbean, MSC Cruises has a presence with foreign travelers, already taking them to Cuba even, but there’s still potential to grow its international clientele there as well as its American one. Biondolillo recognizes that it’s an opportune time for MSC because geopolitical instability in the Mediterranean makes the tropical region more attractive. He said, “we’re coming with a product that is so different, that it’s actually going to bring more people to the Caribbean because we’ll have more Europeans.”
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