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MSC Cruises plans to treble UK passengers to 200,000 by 2017, launches agent programme

MSC Cruises, the Geneva based cruise shipping company, says it has unveiled a new programme that will revolutionise the way it does business with travel agents in the UK as it plans to treble the number of passengers to 200,000 from the country by 2017.

The ‘Serving You’ initiative covers a whole host of trade-friendly measures designed to increase awareness of the cruise line, make it easier to work with and boost sales.

"The comprehensive package covers all areas of MSC Cruises’ relationship with retailers – including commission and marketing payments, improved account management, increased on-the-road sales support, clearer and better targeted promotional campaigns and new group and net-rate schemes," the company said in a statement.

MSC Cruises has also outlined details of comprehensive technological upgrades, including the launch of its new ‘MSC Book’ sales platform for agents, an updated fun and interactive online training programme and a high-tech telephone system at its UK call centre to reduce waiting time.

MSC Cruises executive director UK and Ireland Giles Hawke said “Our aim is to reach 200,000 UK passengers by 2017 – more than trebling our current level of business. We can only do that by engaging with agents and putting them at the heart of what we do. Our ‘Serving You’ programme represents a huge investment. There will be a bigger sales team managing our relationships to bring our brand closer to agents and give them all the help they need to sell. The focus is on developing stronger and deeper ties with the trade, and we have looked at every area of our business to do this.  We have made no secret of our desire to become a significant player in the UK cruise market – ‘Serving You’ signals our intent to make the trade our top priority."

Details of the ‘Serving You’ scheme were unveiled today at the inaugural meeting of MSC Cruises’ newly formed Travel Agent Advisory Board, which is made up of representatives from its key agent partners. Much of the groundwork was done from feedback received from agents at an informal meeting earlier in the year. The Travel Agent Advisory Board will meet up to four times a year as part of MSC Cruises’ efforts to strengthen its relationship with the trade.

The investment in ‘Serving You’ comes hot on the heels of MSC Cruises’ recently announced expansion. With four megaships on order, scheduled for delivery between 2017 and 2019, plus options for three more, MSC Cruises is investing more than any other cruise line in its hardware– a staggering €2.8 billion of confirmed orders, potentially rising to €5 billion.

Meanwhile, the ‘Renaissance Programme’ to lengthen and improve the four Lirica-class vessels begins in August. This will see another €200 million invested.

The MSC Cruises ‘Serving You’ programme in full

Account Management

-          For 2015 the MSC Cruises sales force in the UK and Ireland will DOUBLE in size

-          A 20-strong field sales team – MSC Ambassadors – will be deployed across the country to support key sales periods and campaigns

-          A restructured sales operation will ensure each sales channel has its own specialist team – maximising  returns for agents of all sizes

Management Information

-          MSC Cruises will share certain booking and sales data with key accounts, allowing agents to see how customers holiday and allow them to focus their marketing efforts


Experience Pricing

-          MSC Cruises rolls out its customised onboard experiences onboard from November, giving agent a sales option for all potential clients. With Bella, Fantastica, Aurea and MSC Yacht Club Experiences, there will be an MSC cruise to satisfy all budgets and customer types

Promotional Campaigns

-          MSC Cruises will support efforts to drive early bookings with a clearer promotional campaign structure. Best deals and upgrades will always be available for early bookers, making pricing easy to explain to customers

Commercial Agreements

-          Tailored commission payments and targeted marketing funds that meet the needs of all business models

-          Rewards for generating growth

-          Commission on MSC’s shore excursions

New Flights Programme

-          Dedicated charters from 2015, serving six Mediterranean ships from Genoa and Venice

-          Dynamic packaging flight system using GDS airlines to make MSC Cruises easier to sell

Investment in technology

-          Huge infrastructure improvements including the new and bespoke B2B booking system, MSC Book. The system is also a marketing resource, with downloadable collateral including adverts, flyers, images and video

-          Improved UK call centre telephone system sees calls routed to the relevant expert automatically

-          New e-learning programme, MSC Expert

Deployment Choice

-          Greater emphasis on MSC Cruises position as market leader in the Mediterranean – highlighting wide range of destinations, embarkation ports, itinerary choice and durations

Group Scheme

-          Secured space and lowest prices in return for commitment from retailers

Net Rates

-          New Net Rates partnerships available for 2015


Meyer Werft's STX Finland acquisition moves ahead, may win major order from Norwegian

Joseph L. Meyer Werft, the German shipbuilder that is a leading builder of cruise liners, and the Finnish government have made progress in talks to jointly acquire the STX Finland shipyard in Turku from its Korean owner, while Cruise Business understands Meyer is about to win an order for two very large ships from Norwegian Cruise Line.

"The buyer consortium has reached a preliminary understanding with the Korean seller about the principal terms of the acquisition. A number of questions, however, still remain open and these will have to be solved, including agreements with other stakeholders," Ministry of Employment and the Economy said in a statement. The shipyard in currently owned by STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, the South Korean company that put most of its overseas assets up for sale in late 2012.

"It is our mutual objective to make such progress in the matter by the end of next week so that further information could be provided then," the ministry said. The Finnish government plans to take a minority stake in STX Finland, which has a shipyard in Turku.

Cruise Business understands that Norwegian Cruise Line is close to placing an order for two 200,000 gross ton ships at Meyer Werft, which would be too large to be built at its yard in Papenburg in Germany. However, they could be built at the shipyard in Turku, which also built the first two 226,000 gross ton Oasis class ships of Royal Caribbean International, the contemporary market unit of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL).

The German shipbuilder is also understood to be in talks for further two 150,000 gross ton ships for Star Cruises.

Fincantieri prices IPO at floor of €0.78 per share, government investment company not selling shares

Fincantieri, the Italian state controlled shipbuilder, has placed its initial public offering (IPO) at €0.78 per share, the floor of the €0.78 to €1.00 range it had indicated earlier. The company will only offer 450 million shares out of a maximum of 703.9 million that it had planned to sell.

“Fintecna S.p.A., in its capacity as Selling Shareholder, will not sell any Shares in the Global Offering. An Overallotment option for 50,000,000 Shares will be granted by Fintecna S.p.A,” Fincantieri said.

Fintecna is a holding company that belongs to Cassa depositi e prestiti, an Italian investment company in which the government has a 80.1% stake.

Trading in the shares of Fincantieri will start on 3 July.

TUI AG and listed subsidiary TUI Travel plc to merge

The German travel group TUI AG and TUI Travel plc, the London based listed tour company in which the German company is the biggest shareholder, will merge. The merged company would be called TUI AG and it would be domiciled in Germany and listed on both London and Frankfurt stock exchanges.

“If the Merger is consummated, it would bring together the content portfolio of hotels and cruise ships of TUI AG with access to customers through the distribution capability and unique holiday concepts of TUI Travel,” TUI AG said in a statement.

TUI AG owns Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten, the German destinational to luxury cruise operator in full and has a 50% stake in TUI Cruises, the Hamburg based premium market operator. TUI Travel owns Thomson Cruises with five ships that cater for the UK market plus Quark Expeditions, the boutique cruise brand. It is also the owner of  Intercruises, the shoreside services provider to the cruise industry. Both copmpanies' travel shops are major retailers of cruises in Europe.

The merger would create a pure play integrated leisure travel Group that is a global leader, capable of delivering a complete end-to-end customer experience, thereby significantly enhancing the Group’s growth opportunities and capability for delivering material financial benefits.

TUI AG owns the most recognised travel brand in Europe. With over 230 hotels and more than 155,000 beds it is Europe’s largest holiday hotelier while its cruise operation is one of Europe’s most successful. Having rationalised its businesses through oneTUI it has ambitious growth plans to double the size of its content.

TUI Travel’s leisure tourism business operates as a single organisation across Europe with a portfolio of tour operator brands servicing more than 30 million customers. Having differentiated itself from the rest of the industry, its growth is focused on the continued development of unique holidays, which are available exclusively through its brands, distributed directly through its own channels with significant numbers of its customers flying on its modern holiday airline fleet.

Meyer Werft targets order for two major cruise ships – report

Joseph L. Meyer Werft, the German privately owned shipbuilder that is a leading builder of cruise liners, is close to winning an order for two major cruise ships, a German media report says.

“It concerns options for the construction of two further cruise liners. Therefore, the deal is not finalised yet,” the Ostfriesen Zeitung daily reported on its website. The planned vessels would be completed in 2018 and 2019.

The paper cited talks between the management and staff of the shipbuilder that were held earlier this week

At the moment, Meyer Werft is building two 163,000 gross ton Breakway plus class ships for Norwegian Cruise Line, the Miami based contemporary market operator, three 167,800 gross ton Quantum class vessels for Royal Caribbean International, the contemporary market unit of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) and two ships for Star Cruises.

Viking Star