This Cruise Is Betting Big On New York City

Credit: Getty Images for MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises is the third largest cruise line in the world and the world’s fastest growing cruise line. The company recently christened its latest ship, MSC Seascape, during a glittering launch in New York City—marking a new commitment to the city for the European-based line.

Honoring the city

“MSC loves New York and New Yorkers love MSC,” says Rubén A. Rodríguez, president of MSC Cruises USA. “The reason we’re naming Seascape in New York is to honor the city and also as a prelude to Meraviglia coming to New York as its new home.”

In April 2023, MSC Meraviglia will be sailing from Brooklyn’s Red Hook cruise terminal year-round with a wide variety of itineraries to the Bahamas, Bermuda, Florida, Canada and New England. Meraviglia will also have longer winter sailings to the Caribbean that include stops at MSC’s private island, Ocean Cay, a marine reserve in the Bahamas.

In recent years, New York City has become an increasingly competitive and important cruise market with terminals in Brooklyn and Manhattan. A number of ships sail from the city seasonally—such as Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Breakaway. And like MSC, some lines are choosing to have ships based there year-round. Carnival recently announced that it will be basing the Carnival Venezia in New York starting in June 2023.

Philanthropic commitment

Part of MSC’s arrival in New York involves a philanthropic commitment to the city, supporting the GreenThumb Program (which helps increase community and connectivity by building green spaces) and the NYC Junior Ambassadors program (which will benefit over 600 students and educators, helping them learn about global issues such as international peace and security).

“We want to thank this great organization for seeing the importance of not only cruising, but giving back in a very real way,” Eric Adams, mayor of New York City, said at a press conference. “But this is not the end of our good news. The year-round cruises from the Brooklyn terminal will create a huge boost to our tourism and create up to 10,000 full-time jobs in the city.”

MSC’s presence in New York City will also add to the local economy. “We’re anticipating 219,000 passengers arriving in New York City per year on MSC Cruises,” said Adams, pointing out this will create $102 million a year in spending in the city’s restaurants, shops and bars. “This is a real boost to our economy, a boost to tourism and a boost to contributing to our local communities.”

Lead in global shipping

MSC Cruises’ roots go back to the 17th century. Its parent company was founded by Gianluigi Aponte, whose seafaring Italian family has been involved in maritime traditions for hundreds of years. In 1970, Aponte—a former bank teller—bought his first cargo ship and turned the company into a leader in global shipping, eventually getting into the leisure cruise business in 1988.

Over the past decade, MSC Cruises has been making serious inroads into the North American market. MSC began sailing out of Miami in 2103. In 2019, the line debuted the $200 million Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, a 95-acre island in the Bahamas that is being transformed into a biodiverse and sustainable environment. In 2021, MSC added year-round sailings out of Port Canaveral near Orlando. Earlier this year, the company broke ground for a new $350 million cruise terminal in Miami that will be North America’s largest cruise terminal when it opens at the end of 2023.

MSC Seascape—which was christened at Pier 88 at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal—is one of the largest cruise ships to ever dock in Manhattan, weighing more than 170,000 gross tons and accommodating 5,877 guests. The ship will be sailing year-round out of Miami, but its christening marks MSC’s entrance into the New York City cruise market.

Why New York? “We have a focus on what we call cultured cruisers,” says Rodríguez, describing the psychographics of these cruisers, which align with the residents of the New York Tri-State area. “They are very passionate about international travel. They love to immerse themselves in new cultures. They love historical sites and culture, but they also love engaging in nature. They are strong advocates for sustainability. They love experiencing new cuisines.”

In addition, New York City has an appeal for travelers from other destinations. Rodríguez says that MSC chose to sail out of the Brooklyn terminal because of its proximity to the airport but also because a majority of its sailings will be able to depart on Sunday. “Sundays are a great day to start a cruise from New York because we do have a lot of international guests that will board the ship,” says Rodríguez. “So they can come on Thursday or Friday and spend the weekend in Manhattan.”

Fittingly for its debut in New York City, Seascape has elements that pay tribute to the Big Apple. In the center of the casino is Liberty Plaza, with a 9.8-foot-high replica of the Statue of Liberty. There’s a massive shopping and entertainment area named Times Square with an LED wall that spans several decks and shows the city skyline transforming from dawn to dusk. There are also clubs and restaurants with Manhattan-style sophistication, such as the aptly named Uptown Lounge and Butcher’s Cut, a world-class steakhouse. At Seascape’s christening, MSC hosted a New York City-worthy celebration, with Academy Award winner Sophia Loren presiding over the function remotely as the godmother—her 18th time to perform the role on an MSC ship.

After its debut in New York City, Seascape sailed to its new home port in Miami. The ship—which is designed for warmer weather environments—has almost 140,000 square feet of outdoor space. There’s a sprawling 1,772-foot-long waterfront promenade with outside dining areas. The six swimming pools include the Jungle Pool (with an innovative retractable glass ceiling) and an infinity pool at the back of the ship with panoramic ocean views. Soaring high above the infinity pool on Deck 16 is a groundbreaking design element called the Bridge of Sighs, a glass-floored walkway with a bird’s-eye view of the sea. Another innovation aboard Seascape is the Robotron, an immersive high-tech experience that combines the thrills of a rollercoaster with lights and music.

Coming soon to New York City is MSC Meraviglia, which has been an important ship for the MSC brand. It’s part of MSC’s new class of vessels that cost approximately $1 billion each to build, and it’s also one of the most expensive cruise ships currently in operation around the world. Meraviglia was MSC’s first vessel to start sailing again in the U.S. in 2021, after the CDC lifted its pandemic restrictions. When Meraviglia originally arrived in North America in 2019, the ship was welcomed in New York City with much fanfare: At the time, it was the largest ship to ever dock in Manhattan.

According to Rodríguez, Meraviglia is a natural for New York. “It’s an all-weather ship. It’s a beautiful ship. Of course, it has outdoor decks and outdoor pools, but it also has a lot of indoor spaces and indoor entertainment,” says Rodríguez. “It has an indoor sports center. It has a beautiful long promenade with a domed LED ceiling.”

MSC hasn’t made any big tweaks to the ship, but it has been adding some new features aimed at the New York market. “We added an international meet onboard Meraviglia where our guests that want to get to know guests from other parts of the world can have a cocktail and then sit at round tables for dinner and talk about different cultures,” says Rodríguez. “We also have cocktails for solo travelers to socialize and get to know each other. We also have a great activity for LGBTQ+ passengers.”

Meraviglia’s food offerings are similar to the restaurants onboard the new Seascape, including Butcher’s Cut steakhouse, Hola! Tacos & Cantina and Kaito Teppanyaki Restaurant & Sushi Bar, just to name a few.

One thing that won’t change: MSC will continue to serve Italian pizza and won’t try to outdo the local offerings. “I think New Yorkers do New York pizza better than anybody else,” says Rodríguez. “I don’t want to outshine New York when it comes to New York pizza. We’ll stick to Italian pizza.”

Did you subscribe to our daily Newsletter?

It’s Free! Click here to Subscribe

Source: Forbes