MSC Lirica Heads to China
PHOTO: MSC Lirica will homeport in Shanghai starting next year. (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)
Following last week’s roundup of cruise lines entering the Chinese cruise market, MSC Cruises today joins the fold with the announcement that its MSC Lirica will be homeported in Shanghai beginning May 2016. The development is a partnership between the private family-owned cruise company and Chinese outbound tourism provider, CAISSA Touristic Group. Dining, entertainment and service will be tailored specifically to Chinese guests.
“MSC Cruises’ distinctive European flavor resonates well with CAISSA Touristic’s brand spirit, which also originates from Europe,” said CAISSA Touristic’s President Chen Xiaobing. “Additionally, what makes this partnership stand out from other traditional agreements between China-based tour agencies and cruise lines is the emphasis that will be placed on the training of the entire onboard staff to ensure guests receive the best-in-class MSC Cruises’ experience and service, as well as the degree of the adaptation of the ship’s hardware and software, such as facilities renovation, service design and operation, to fit the customs and tastes of the Chinese guests it is designed to serve.”
MSC Cruises Chief Executive Officer Gianni Onorato added, “We’re customizing MSC Lirica by drawing on the unrivaled local knowledge of our partner, CAISSA Touristic. In addition, MSC Lirica is the perfect size to enable guests to get the very most out of this customization, which means she brings to the market a cruise product, specifically designed to meet the needs of Chinese consumers, that is truly like no other.”
In addition to MSC Cruises’ Mediterranean cuisine, regionally-known and internationally-respected Chinese celebrity chef Jereme Leung will oversee the development of international food ship-wide along with a new oriental fusion restaurant onboard called Jia Yao. The dining venue will feature Chinese specialties and his signature “hot pot” and other dishes.
He will additionally train MSC Lirica’s chefs in traditional Chinese cooking and his trademark techniques as well as front-of-house staff in culinary and cultural etiquette.
“We’re really excited about having Jereme Leung at our side in this venture,” said Onorato. “He has a deep knowledge of Asian cuisines that extends well beyond China’s borders, which is why he’s also instrumental in the development and delivery of other onboard menus and dining concepts, including the Kaito sushi restaurant; the 20-hour-a-day Chinese and international buffet and La Bussola, which will serve dishes from across Asia and around the world, plus a Chinese tea bar.”
What’s more, groups and families will have the opportunity to book private dining experiences in the Ippocampo restaurant.
Entertainment and activities will feature a full 20-hour daily schedule encompassing live music, dance shows, games and leisure throughout the day and night.
Besides regular daytime activities for adults, children and families like fun at the spray park, new sun canopies will be installed for shady lounge chair relaxation, and European history and cultural lectures, language classes, yoga and tai chi will also be available.
Evening entertainment will maintain MSC Cruises’ international vibe with dancing, live music and singing, magic and cabaret stage shows, and a dozen musicians across the ship’s lounges and bars will perform American, European and Chinese songs. Themed nights and interactive game shows will also continue to be featured.
The casino will also include Chinese favorite games and a private baccarat and sic bo room, and shops will sell European brands such as Gucci, Bulgari, Longines and Tag Heuer.
“Everything on an MSC Cruises’ ship – from the hospitality, cuisine and staffing, to the ship’s interiors – is designed and controlled in-house, with meticulous attention to quality and detail, the way only a family-owned company can,” said Onorato. “This means we can customize every aspect of our offering – right down to a new Cruise Ambassador role we have created just for MSC Lirica – to meet the needs of consumers in the markets we serve.”
As part of a new staffing structure, these specially trained cruise ambassadors, essentially personal concierges and chaperones, will be assigned to specific guests during each sailing for the utmost in service.
Fluent Mandarin and English speakers, these ambassadors will serve as social hosts, assistants, fixers and guides during the cruise, providing information about all onboard and off-board experiences. As requested, the cruise ambassadors will reserve restaurant, entertainment and excursion bookings and even join guests for dinners, shows and excursions.
With upwards of 80 percent in some departments, MSC Lirica staff will feature the greatest Mandarin-speaking personnel-to-guest ratio ever. They will be recruited and trained by specific Chinese education centers, and managers on other MSC ships will receive special training as well.
The MSC Lirica will set sail mostly on 3- and 4-day itineraries to South Korea and Japan from Shanghai starting on May 1, 2016, but a number of longer itineraries will also be available.
More by Jason Leppert
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