MOONACHIE, N.J. -- MSC Cruises tapped cruise industry veteran Richard Sasso to head its North American operations.

Sasso, formerly president of Celebrity Cruises, confirmed he accepted a position as president and CEO of MSC Cruises U.S.A.

Sasso told that MSC "has been growing very rapidly and building and buying new ships. There is a need to create a North American presence to accommodate that kind of growth. We'll be opening a larger operation in the U.S."

MSC Cruises is based in Naples, Italy. Its parent company is Mediterranean Shipping Company, a privately owned line based in Geneva, Switzerland, that operates 225 container vessels.

The line recently was awarded the European Vision, formerly operated by Festival Cruises, in an auction in Barbados; Sasso said MSC renamed the ship the Armonia. In March, the line placed orders for two ships, which would bring the total number of passenger ships in its fleet to seven.

The company will add a Florida base of operations to supplement its current New Jersey office, Sasso said.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI