On Wednesday 29 November, 2017, MSC Seaside sailed for the first time from Fincantieri’s shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, to Trieste. Frances Marcellin was on board, ahead of its 22-night maiden voyage to Miami, to find out more about Seaside’s unique design, the tech and how it fits into the company’s vision for expansion.
“The ship that follows the sun”, the official description of MSC Seaside, is a nod to its unique design and the Caribbean itineraries that this 20-deck, 323-metre-long ship has been created for. It is currently sailing 7- and 14-nighcruises from Port Miami, to destinations such as Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico and the Bahamas.
MSC Seaside is pitched as the new flagship vessel of MSC Cruises’ fleet and the first of a new prototype that is designed to “bring passengers closer to the sea”. It is a design that the company believes can optimise its revenue and position in the American marketplace.
“It is a ship that revolutionises industry standards,” says MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, “with an audacious and innovative design that brings guests and sea closer.”
An unparalleled plan for the cruise industry
MSC Cruises has invested heavily in this prototype. During MSC Seaside’s delivery ceremony in November 2017, the company announced that two Seaside Evo ships would be delivered in 2021 and 2023 for an additional investment of €1.8 billion.
These will be larger versions of the same design, carrying up to 5,646 passengers, as opposed to Seaside’s 5,179, and be longer at 339m. This makes a total of 10 new ships the company plans to deliver between now and 2026, for an overall cost of €10.5bn, making it the highest number of ships on order worldwide and an unprecedented strategy.
To put this investment into context, CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) reports that the entire industry is committing more than $50 billion (€10 billion) to deliver 70-plus new ships over the next decade. MSC Cruises’ investment alone is over one-fifth of the entire industry’s financial commitment.
“It goes without saying that we’re the number one cruise line in Europe,” says Antonio Paradiso, Managing director for the UK and Ireland and Executive director of Australia and Scandinavia. “We’re really strong in the Mediterranean and now our main priority is to focus on the UK and the US.”
The UN’s World Tourism Organisation confirmed that international tourism grew by 7% in 2017 to reach a total of 1.3 billion – more than the predicted 4-5%. In the cruise industry, CLIA notes that the UK saw a record 1.9m tourists taking cruises in 2016, which outpaced European cruise market growth. While 25.8 million tourists took cruises overall, by the far the biggest market is the US at 11.52 million.
“MSC Seaside will spearhead our campaign to expand our presence in North America,” says Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises. “These numbers bring up the point that 98% of people don’t go on a cruise and only 2% have chosen this different way of taking holidays, so the potential is huge.”
Onorato says the first thing the company did was commit to a long-term plan. “We know that today there are only three yards able to build the cruise ship in the world and each year they can build a couple of ships,” he says, confirming that to deliver on the strategy they had to take “all the slots available”.