In an hour-long interview with U.S. journalists aboard the
MSC Seaside in Trieste, Italy, Onorato said MSC will need four or five ships in
North America to achieve its goal of carrying 1 million North American
Currently, the MSC Divina is in Miami year-round, with the
brand-new Seaside set to join it there in about two weeks.
The $2.1 billion order with Fincantieri for two
4,400-passenger Seaside-Evo ships will give MSC more of the style of ship
suited to the Caribbean, Onorato said. The Seaside design has plenty of open
deck and pool space.
On another topic, Onorato said that MSC had suffered in
North America from a strategy that it is no longer using. Until several years
ago, MSC's strategy in the Caribbean was to tailor a cruise for European
customers, fill most cabins with Europeans and top off with North American
customers. As a result, it gained a reputation for different food and service
than Americans wanted, he said.
That has been fixed but a gap remains, he said, "between
our achievement and the perception of our achievement in the marketplace."
Onorato said internal customer satisfaction scores show the
improvement. "Obviously, it takes time for these improvements to be fully
acknowledged by everyone. It takes time," he said. An operations unit
within MSC's Fort Lauderdale sales office has been established to attune MSC
ships to U.S. tastes, he said.
For example, at the unit's direction, steaks on MSC's
Florida-based ships are larger than ones served in the Mediterranean.
Onorato also addressed the problem of overcrowding in some
Mediterranean ports such as Santorini and Dubrovnik, which risk being
overwhelmed as the number and size of cruise ships increase.
He said there needs to be a "discipline" on
certain dates to avoid congestion. He said MSC will work with local authorities
to that end. He also said MSC and the cruise industry have been developing
alternative ports. One he highlighted is the port of Sarande in southern
Albania, where MSC began calling earlier this year.
"Nobody knew that in Serande there were 10 different Unesco
sites," Onorato said. "This is the opportunity the cruise industry
can give, because there are options. That's the only way to solve this problem."