Last updated: 09:33 AM ET, Mon November 09 2015

It’s a Cirque Renaissance for MSC Cruises

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | MSC Cruises | Jason Leppert | November 09, 2015

It’s a Cirque Renaissance for MSC Cruises

PHOTO: The rejuvenation of MSC Lirica, pictured, comes in time for it to deploy for home-porting in Shanghai starting in May 2016. (Courtesy of MSC Cruises)

In addition to seven new ships on order, MSC Cruises just completed the redesign of four of its existing vessels and announced a partnership with Cirque du Soleil – no small set of current and future accomplishments for a family owned cruise company. The new completion of the Renaissance Program prepares the rejuvenated quartet for trending destinations like China and Cuba, and teaming up with Cirque elevates the line’s entertainment and dining to new heights.

Renaissance Program

The rejuvenation of MSC Lirica, the fourth and last Lirica-class ship to be enhanced, comes in time for it to deploy for home-porting in Shanghai starting in May 2016. The $220 million Renaissance Program stretched the vessels to add a total of 800 new staterooms to the family-friendly fleet. In fact, each of the refreshed ships now features five venues dedicated to children and teens including ones designed and branded by Chicco and LEGO.

The MSC Lirica was specifically customized for the Chinese market with onboard Cruise Ambassadors, personal concierges to tailor sailings to individual guests’ needs, and Asian and international dining. Besides China, MSC Opera will set course for Cuba this December, making MSC Cruises the only global operator to sail roundtrip from Havana. Also, MSC Armonia will sail from Genoa, Italy, and MSC Sinfonia will embark from Durban in South Africa.

Overall on the four ships, dining has been expanded with new menus and 20 opening hours at the buffet, entertaining activities have also been programmed across 20 daily hours and upgraded venues, and the spa itself has been rejuvenated to encompass more massage suites, restyled whirlpools and a spa doctor.

“Renaissance is the first pillar of MSC Cruises’ ambitious growth plan, while the seven next-generation new builds we’ll launch between 2017 and 2022 are the second,” said MSC Cruises Chief Executive Officer Gianni Onorato. "Renaissance has delivered four holistically improved ships that will serve strategic segments of the global cruise market with industry-leading experiences, amenities and service that are synonymous with MSC Cruises today.”

Cirque du Soleil

The Renaissance Program is only the first stage in MSC Cruises’ $5.4 billion fleet expansion plan, and next begins with the launch of the 4,500-guest MSC Meraviglia in May 2017. Just revealed is that Cirque du Soleil will be featured on the four upcoming Meraviglia-class ships as part of a long-term partnership.

Of interesting historical note, Quebec-based Cirque du Soleil once had a partnership with Celebrity Cruises, the former line of Richard Sasso, current President and CEO of MSC Cruises (USA). While the creative collaboration with Celebrity received a mixed response due mostly to poor integration with its existing fleet, the MSC one is on track to be a more tailor-made fit. After all, most of the line’s entertainment is not language-dependent, and Cirque’s signature abstract themes are already regularly presented to an international crowd.

Designed exclusively from the start by both MSC and Cirque will be a new high-tech dining and entertainment venue. The experience intends to join the fine dining of MSC Cruises with the imaginative artistry of Cirque du Soleil for two performances each evening on six nights a week. Two shows are being developed specifically for MSC Cruises.

The $21 million venue will be situated at the aft of the ship and measure in at 10,760 square feet, and the 450-seat lounge will include a 200-seat dining area for meals and drinks before the show.

“MSC Cruises is a company built on innovation, from the unique, prototype ships we design and build to the on-board experiences we conceive and create,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises. “Together with our newest world-class partner, Cirque du Soleil, we imagined and are now designing a totally new, live entertainment experience exclusively for our guests; an original show in a multimillion-dollar custom-built venue aboard a ship we designed ourselves, down to the last detail. It’s this commitment to innovation, and the vision and creativity that only a family-owned company can apply, that make MSC Cruises so distinct.”

Yasmine Khalil, president of 45 DEGREES, Cirque du Soleil’s special projects company added, “we have found in MSC a long-term partner with a clear vision about trends in the cruising industry and a strong desire to be the leader by bringing entertainment on board to a whole new level. For Cirque du Soleil, this is what inspires us and provides us with a great creative challenge that we require for each new relationship and project that we embark on.”

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