MSC Cruises, the world’s fourth largest cruise shipping group, says it has teamed up with a Chinese company to operate MSC Lirica from Shanghai, starting next May.
The Geneva baased cruise line and CAISSA Touristic Group, China's leading outbound tourism service provider, have entered into a strategic partnership. “As part of the agreement, from May 2016, MSC Lirica will homeport in Shanghai to serve the Chinese home market,” MSC Cruises said in a statement.
The ship will undergo a major refit and it will also be lengthened. This will raise its gross tonnage to 65,600 from the current figure of 59,058 and its length will increase to 274.4 metres from 251.2. The work will be completed in nOvember 2015, MSC Cruises said on its website
“The strategic cooperation agreement between the two companies will be the longest-running and financially most significant between a cruise line and a tour operator in the history of cruising in China,” MSC Cruises said in the statement.
CAISSA Touristic’s President Chen Xiaobing emphasised the popularity of MSC Cruises’ European and South American routes with travellers from around the world and that it had recently been named number one cruise line in Europe.
Chen Xiaobing added: “MSC Cruises’ distinctive European flavour resonates well with Caissa Touristic’s brand spirit, as it also originates from Europe. This partnership standouts from other traditional agreements between China-based tour agencies and cruise lines by the emphasis that will be placed on the training of the entire on-board staff to ensure that guests receive MSC Cruises’ best-in-class experience and service as well as the degree of the adaptation of the ship’s hardware and software (like facilities renovation, service design and operation, on-board commodities and more) to fit the customs and tastes of the Chinese guests that it is designed to serve.”
“We are convinced that the newly-renovated MSC Lirica will bring exciting new holiday-making choices to Chinese guests and are looking forward to welcoming numerous would-be cruisers aboard, at a time when the cruise market in the country for this particular type of product is thriving,” concluded Chen Xiaobing.
Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ Chief Executive Officer, commented: “MSC Cruises has been present in China since 2010, successfully bringing Chinese guests to cruise on its ultra-modern fleet to its many global destinations and, especially, to Europe and the Mediterranean, where our distinctive product made us the number one cruise line across the entire Continent. We are now delighted and excited that through this partnership we are taking our presence in China to the next level. Thus, with CAISSA Touristic we will partner to bring our unique MSC Cruises’ experience directly to Chinese consumers.”
Onorato continued: “The soon-to-be completely renovated MSC Lirica, as part of MSC Cruises’ ground-breaking Renaissance programme, will feature many distinctive traits – including some industry firsts in service - especially designed for the cruising enjoyment of Chinese consumers. This will make it a much sought-after choice for cruises in the region.”
MSC Lirica is scheduled to reach her new homeport of Shanghai on 1 May 2016, after a 60-day grand voyage from Rio de Janeiro via Barcelona, Marseille, Genoa and Dubai that was announced recently.