ONBOARD THE MSC SEASCAPE -- MSC Cruises' christening ceremony at the cruise terminal in New York City was as much a blessing of its newest ship as it was a celebration of the cruise line's plans to homeport from New York year-round.
While the champagne bottle successfully crashed into the bow of the 170,000-gross-ton MSC Seascape, executives from the cruise and shipping company spent the evening ceremony emphasizing the cruise line's dedication to the North American market, specifically New York, where it is trying to gain market share. It plans to homeport the MSC Meraviglia here next year.
"Good evening, New York!" yelled Pierfrancesco Vago, the executive chairman of MSC Cruises, with his arms outstretched like the lead singer at a packed concert. "Just like New York, we are back and we are stronger than ever," he exclaimed, referencing the pandemic.
MSC has for years had a large footprint in the European cruise market and the international shipping industry that includes 700 vessels. And it has cruised both year-round and seasonally from South Florida. But the line will be based here full-time in April with the arrival of the Meraviglia and will homeport five ships in the U.S. by 2025.
The relationship with New York is a critical one for MSC, which is working to grow market share in North America in competition with contemporary cruise lines like Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line. Homeporting at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will give the line access to 32 million customers in the critical tristate area's drive market, said Ruben Rodriguez, president of MSC Cruises USA.
"Why fly to your cruise when you can just hop on the subway," Rodriguez said.
Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, urged travel advisors to introduce the brand to cultured travelers to help MSC Cruises "become one important option for your customers when they think about a cruise."
The line championed its work to safeguard the environment through the MSC Foundation and UNICEF, namely through projects helping communities in Africa and protecting sea life at its Ocean Key Marine Reserve.
Godmother Sophia Loren, who has served as godmother for the ships in the MSC fleet since 2002, appeared at the ceremony remotely in a recorded video. She said she could not attend due to the pandemic but added that the sea has always had a special place in her heart and was "quite possessive" of her "godchildren." She asked Alexa Aponte, CFO of MSC Group, to cut the ribbon and see the ship off for her.
"Don't get too used to it," said Loren to Aponte. "As soon as the pandemic ends, I look forward to being here in person to christen many more ships."