MSC Splendida Offers European Cruises
and Italian (and more) Cuisine
European Cruising Grows Up
Because the current economic meltdown started just after the summer cruise season, Americans were still taking European cruises in 2008.But this summer the tide has turned with more Europeans booking ships in Europe than Americans. The two biggest beneficiaries of this sea change are the two major pan-European cruise lines, Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises, both currently with passenger loads running well ahead of the U.S.-based cruise ships by catering to the Italian, German, French and Spanish markets - all at the same time.
I am currently on the newest European mega-ship, the MSC Splendida, heading towards a grand christening ceremony by Sophia Loren this Saturday in Barcelona. The fact that there are conducting that ceremony in Spain, even though MSC is an Italian cruise, line shows the diversity with which these pan-European cruise lines operate.
The other major player in the pan-European market is Costa Crociere, also an Italian cruise line but owned by parent company Carnival Corp. of Miami. MSC Cruises is not owned by anyone, they are a very well-known shipping company who are relative newcomers to the cruise market, but they have come into it in a big way.
If MSC were American, you would know them as well as Princess or Holland America. The fastest growing cruise fleet in the world, they boast the largest cruise ships of any cruise line outside of Royal Caribbean. This new beauty, MSC Splendida, is a 133,000-ton and 4000 capacity wonder of modern engineering. Unlike the European cruise ships of old, it has everything a modern cruise ship could ever want, including great alternative dining, water slides, and a "ship within a ship" concierge club with special suites and a private pool area.
Both MSC Cruises and Costa Crociere claim to be the "Italian" cruise line for Europeans. The catch phrase for MSC is "Italian Style, Italian Service" while the Costa has claimed the tagline "Cruising Italian Style" for decades. In reality, both of them are "cruising American style," but in an Italian suit. Both lines feature Italian waiters and mostly Italian cuisine in the dining rooms, but everything else about the experience is as American as cheeseburgers. And there is nothing wrong with that.
This is American-style cruising for the European continent, although all of the activities onboard are conducted in multi-lingual fashion; using Italian, French, German, Spanish and English last. Daily programs and other necessary literature are printed in each language and distributed to the guests according to their national origin. When the cruise director comes out to introduce a show he begins with, "Buon giorno, bon soir, buenos noches, guten nagen and welcome everybody!" Saying everything in five languages might seems tedious to most Americans, but Europeans are quite familiar with this practice, and take it in stride.
By all appearances, Europeans have taken to cruising like ducks to water. This bodes very well for the cruise industry as a whole since time has proven that most people who take one cruise will choose to cruise again and again. From what I have seen, you won't see many happier cruise executives than the ones at MSC Cruises.
The goal of MSC is to take modern cruising to all the places where it is still a new concept. Now, to be clear, Italy, Britain, Spain and the UK have all had "cruise ships" for years, but they never had these modern mega-ships before. Typically, these European companies ended up with the ships American cruise lines were retiring. They would buy them on the cheap and market them to the locals and discount prices.
That business is headed out because Europeans now have mass market cruising. MSC is not only targeting the European market, they are also in South America, South Africa and the Caribbean. MSC Splendida is a state of the art vessel that would compete nicely in the U.S. market, but is finding greener pastures (or bluer waters, if you will) in Europe. Talk about being at the right place at the right time, this is a company with a bright future despite the gloomy economic outlook.
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