MSC Cruises may be relatively small in North America, so it is easy to overlook the magnitude of the line, which has a much bigger presence in Europe and also claims a large market share in South America.

A presentation by executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago aboard the newly-delivered MSC Seaside offered a broadside of statistics, some of which were eye-opening.

Vago said the 2 million passengers MSC expects in 2017 will take 1.8 million shore excursions, see 8,960 Broadway-style shows while onboard its 12 ships and consume over 50 million meals.

He said MSC has the most international passenger base of any cruise line with 170 nationalities represented. The line visits 86 countries on 194 different itineraries and calls at 199 ports (Carnival Corp. claims over 700).

Founded in Naples, Italy, MSC sells in 67 countries around the world, Vago said, and the average passenger is 45 years old.

Without saying which day it was, Vago also said that MSC's record for a single day of sales was 10,993 bookings.

The company, a subsidiary of Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Co., has 17,778 onboard and shoreside employees and expects to create 25,000 new jobs by 2026 as it proceeds with an $10.2 billion shipbuilding program.

To date, MSC has only had one ship in the North American market at a time, but that is about to change as its new ship, the MSC Seaside, joins the MSC Divina in Miami on Dec. 21. The 4,138-passenger Seaside is the first MSC ship to have an English name, and the first newbuild to be sent to North America directly from the shipyard.

By the fall of 2019, they will be joined by a seasonal deployment of the MSC Meraviglia, giving MSC three ships in Miami for the 2019-20 winter season with a weekly combined capacity of over 12,000 passengers.

And that doesn't count the two ships MSC currently operates for Europeans (and Canadians) from Havana, Cuba, or the ship it deploys seasonally from Martinique and Guadeloupe.

By 2019, MSC plans to have opened a private island near Bimini that will serve all of those vessels.

At a ceremony to accept delivery of the Seaside from Italian shipbuilding powerhouse Fincantieri, Vago and Mediterranean Shipping Co. owner and chairman Gianluigi Aponte announced a contract would be signed for two more Seaside ships, each with capacity for 350 more passengers than the Seaside.

"We are determined to become one of the most important cruise operators," Aponte said.
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