MSC Cruises’ decision to base a ship in Miami year-round means there’s going to be some high-quality tonnage competing next summer in the Caribbean, and that scenario should be good for value.
The rapidly expanding line said it would homeport the MSC Divina in Miami starting in November. Itineraries have yet to be announced, but other ships of its size (the Divina is 3,502 passengers) typically operate seven- or eight-day cruises.
For a European brand, putting a ship like the Divina year-round in North America also serves as a reminder to travel agents that it is open for business on this continent as well as in Europe.
MSC has previously had just a seasonal presence in South Florida: The Poesia does seven- and 14-day cruises to the Eastern Caribbean and Bermuda. After it departs April 20 for Denmark, MSC will not have a ship in North America until Divina takes the Poesia's place in the fall.
At that point, the Divina won’t be the newest ship in MSC’s fleet -- that would be the Preziosa, which was christened last week in Genoa -- but the Divina was launched in 2012 and will be about 18 months old when it begins sailing from Miami.
It will have some other new ships to keep it company. Most notably, Norwegian Cruise Line will debut the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway in January. It is intended to sail year-round from Miami.
Although no longer new, the two biggest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean International’s Allure and Oasis of the Seas, will be in the Caribbean next summer, and they remain in a category of their own and are highly popular.
Carnival Cruise Lines hasn’t released summer 2014 itineraries yet for its newest ship, Carnival Breeze (3,690 passengers), but at the very least the Carnival Conquest (2,974 passengers) will be sailing from Miami.
All of which should assure agents that there is going to be some very nice hardware to choose from next summer. New ships tend to command higher prices, but in competition with each other, the prices may be a little less.
Whether there will be too much capacity for summer demand in the Caribbean remains to be seen. The trend for the past few summers is for North American brands to put more capacity in Europe. But some of those beds may now be returning to the Caribbean as European economies continue to undermine cruise demand there.