Last updated: 10:38 PM ET, Thu March 19 2015

How MSC Cruises Mobilized in the Wake of the Tunis Attack

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | MSC Cruises | Theresa Norton | March 19, 2015

How MSC Cruises Mobilized in the Wake of the Tunis Attack

Upon news that some passengers were involved in a terrorist attack in Tunisia, MSC Cruises' U.S. headquarters mobilized along with the cruise line's other offices around the world.

"It's about communication," said Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises-USA. "Even though Americans and Canadians were not involved in the actual tragedy, they were involved in the emotional part of it. Some were on a bus close to the situation or they're hearing about this unfortunate thing. So we need to keep them up-to-date on what's happening."

Sasso and Ken Muskat, executive vice president of sales, public relations and guest services, were up all night, fielding calls and communicating with MSC headquarters since news broke that passengers from the MSC Splendida and the Costa Fascinosa were touring the Bardo National Museum in Tunis when the attack occurred.

There was no hint of terrorism or uncertainty in Tunisia before the attack, Sasso said.

"There was no state department warning, and we have tour operators and our own staff on the group monitoring it," Sasso said. "If they thought there was some uneasiness in a destination, we would start looking at that with more focus. There are a zillion ports around the world, and we follow all of them. We have more boots on the ground and have a minute-to-minute handle on what's going on in the world because of our presence on the ground. There was nothing going on there that indicated this should've been a concern. World events can happen anywhere. It's a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's just a sad thing to be aware of anywhere around the world."

MSC Cruises' parent company is Mediterranean Shipping, the world's second-largest cargo company with offices and teams around the globe.

Sasso noted that MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago immediately flew from Florida, where he was attending Cruise Shipping Miami, to Tunisia.

"What's important is taking care of the guests who have been affected by this through death or injury," he said. "You have to be prepared for crisis no matter what business you're in and have a crisis plan and the right people to move swiftly to do those things required."

Muskat said a letter from Sasso to travel agents was sent out today, keeping them up-to-date on the situation and about likely itinerary changes and redeployments.

"We're making sure the trade is updated on the latest developments, and we're making sure the website is updated," Muskat said. "There were no U.S. or Canadian citizens impacted, but we obviously want to keep the trade updated."

MSC Cruises had visited Tunisia regularly. "Unfortunately, there certainly are going to be changes in deployment and itineraries to keep away from a place that now appears to not be as safe as one might imagine," Sasso said. "We've made many cruise calls there. It's been at the forefront of the stabilization of that region. It's a beautiful destination with beautiful people that have been catering to guests for a long time. In the last 24 to 36 hours, that's obviously changed quite a bit in the eyes of people around the world. It's unfortunate."

The ship is completing its itinerary, heading now for Barcelona and concluding in Genoa on Saturday. A Care Team is onboard to help with guests, and there also is a large contingent with Vago in Tunisia. Guests on the ship were given free Internet and phone calls to inform family and friends that they're safe.

"We're praying for those who are injured and sending our condolences to the families of the people who didn't make it through this," Sasso said.

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