MSC Cruises dou­bles down on lux­ury ships

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - TRAVEL - By Tay­lor Dol­ven

Cruis­ers seek­ing a lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence are about to have even more op­tions.

MSC Cruises an­nounced re­cently it will roll out four new 1,000-pas­sen­ger ships aimed at the lux­ury mar­ket. The first will launch in 2023. The ex­pan­sion will bring MSC’s to­tal fleet to 29 ships by 2027.

The move comes as the Swiss-based cruise line seeks to in­crease its pres­ence in the U.S. mar­ket. MSC Cruises has sailed ships from South Florida since 2004 and de­ployed its first U.S.-launched ship, Sea­side, in Mi­ami last year. MSC would not dis­close where the new lux­ury ships will be based, but PortMi­ami agreed ear­lier this year to build a ter­mi­nal ex­clu­sively for MSC’s use.

Though var­i­ous cruise lines have an­nounced they will in­tro­duce more than a dozen new lux­ury ships in the next five years, MSC ex­ec­u­tive Rick Sasso thinks lux­ury is a safe bet.

“The life­style to­day for peo­ple with af­flu­ence, they want spe­cial things, they want pam­per­ing, and they don’t mind pay­ing for it,” said Sasso, chair­man of MSC Cruises USA. “We’re be­com­ing a much more fo­cused line on North Amer­ica.”

The new ships will have 500 cab­ins, with a dou­bleoc­cu­pancy of 1,000 pas­sen­gers, mak­ing them larger than ships from most other lux­ury lines.

Cruise in­dus­try ex­pert Ste­wart Ch­i­ron said MSC will have a hard time com­pet­ing with lux­ury main­stays such as Se­abourn Cruise Line and Sil­versea Cruises.

“What makes them think they can com­pete with the true ul­tra-lux­ury brands?” Ch­i­ron said. “This is just more of the same.”

MSC cur­rently of­fers a lux­ury-style ex­pe­ri­ence on Sea­side in the Yacht Club, an ex­clu­sive ship-within-aship area with perks in­clud­ing pri­or­ity board­ing, but­ler ser­vice and a pri­vate pool.

MSC CRUISES

Last year, MSC Cruises de­ployed its first U.S.-launched ship, Sea­side, shown here off the coast of Italy.

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