When I was recently at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy to tour MSC Cruises' new MSC Seaside under construction, I had the chance to exclusively interview the line's CEO, Gianni Onorato, about what sets the ship apart for MSC and the industry overall.
How is the MSC Seaside significantly different and new?
"It's part of a process that we started in 2014 when we start[ed] think[ing] about these ships, to have different ships and different prototypes, different ships for different use[s]. This was a ship that was built…to be a ship for warm regions of the world."
"In the past, MSC was very much focused on Europe and the Med, thanks [to] God because we became [a] market leader for these, but we've always not been in the right way present in the North American market, and I think this can be the ship that in the Caribbean marks the different way, a different presence, for MSC."
Where does the ship fit in the larger picture of the worldwide industry?
"We want to be an additional choice for the customers, for the consumers, giving a different product. The product is made not only by a different ship but also by more international clientele-although this ship is more than others more specifically addressed to the North American clientele-and [to] give an opportunity to be really an experience much closer to the sea. This very low promenade embracing the ship, with all these restaurants in and out, will give a sort of Mediterranean, European flavor, but at the same time you're in the Caribbean."
"This is also a ship where we wanted to follow up on what we think more and more will be a mark of the cruise industry which will be to give as many options as possible to our customer[s], giving them tools to choose what they like in a very easy way. It's a ship for everyone, for all nationalities, but with a special hint for [the] North American market. It's a ship for all the segments."
"For families, it's the first ship where we will have a dedicated casual restaurant for families. It's a ship where we will have the system of modular cabins where you can build up to a cabin of ten people. It's a ship that goes for the high-end customers with an enhanced Yacht Club with the large pool, large restaurant, but only with 10 percent of additional Yacht Club cabins.…But it's a ship also for every pocket because you can buy the basic…experience [or] you can buy the higher end experience…"
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How are dining, entertainment and activities being customized for Americans while maintaining a Mediterranean vibe?
"[Restaurants range] from Asian, Pan-Asian, typical sushi or teppanyaki to a typical North America or typical American steakhouse, Butcher's Cut, which obviously is not being designed or managed by us, but we have asked the help of experts in America. We have a fish restaurant, Mediterranean typical fish restaurant, with fish flown over from Europe every week."
"For entertainment, we don't have anymore the typical two seating show, but we prefer to have a smaller show lounge, but you have different shows every night. So, you can choose if you want an afternoon show, early night or late night. So, it's a world of choice."
"Through the partnership with Samsung Electronics, we also are having some virtual activities that the guests can enjoy like the virtual mirror in the shop. You don't need to try your pants or your shirt, but you will pick it up from this mirror and you will see yourself in the mirror with the new shirt, with the new pants."
"So, this is part of the emotional experience, emotional gallery, where you enter this gallery and you will have immediately, as soon as you enter just passing in, you will be recognized and you will have all of your videos and all of your photos of yourself on display, on this tunnel that we've built so you can pick up whatever you like and buy it…"
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How exactly will the promenade differ from, say, what Norwegian Cruise Line has done with its Waterfront on the Breakaway-class ships?
"First of all, this is seven meters…You will see it's very wide, so this gives the opportunity really to have inside, outside bar activity, restaurant activities. This is really a promenade that you can imagine when you walk on [the] Nice promenade or you walk on an Italian promenade in Naples or whatsoever. So, I think this makes a difference, and it makes a difference also that this promenade is connected with the upper part of the ship."
He explains that aft express elevators will link the lower promenade and top deck only except for select suite access along the way, adding, "So, it really connects all the outside parts of the ship together…"
What else makes the ship special?
"This is the first ship where you have the funnel in the center of the ship because in the past it has always been more in the back.…This is not the case anymore, but this allows us to have a much better flow and to avoid the bottleneck that you find on many ships at the aft part of the ship, especially where the restaurants are because [if] you put the restaurant and the galley in the back then inevitably you have a bottleneck. Here it's different. With this different positioning, there is a much better flow of the guests and…the public areas, they are much better integrated and accessed."
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