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MSC Cruises launches fleet-wide digital innovation program MSC for Me

  • Written by Teijo Niemelä

MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line, has unveiled its fleet-wide digital innovation program, MSC for Me. After spending the past three years working with over eleven of the world’s leading digital, tech and behavioural science experts, among which Deloitte Digital, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Samsung , MSC Cruises’ holistic program puts guests at the heart of every step of the development, design and construction of its ships. The company envisions a fleet-wide roll-out of the program, to the 11 upcoming next-generation mega ships – to be built under its industry-unprecedented €9 billion, ten-year investment plan – as well as to its 12 existing ships.

MSC for Me will bring to the sea some of the very latest advances in customer-centric technology, in a program designed to meet the needs of guests for years to come. It will debut on MSC Meraviglia, the company’s first next-generation new mega-ship coming into service this June, which will be fitted with 16,000 points of connectivity, 700 digital access points, 358 informative and interactive screens, and 2,244 cabins with RFID/NFC access technology. The program will next be rolled out on MSC Seaside in November.

MSC Cruises’ Business Innovation team, supporting the vision and leadership of the company’s Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, has overseen the integrated development, design and construction of the new ships. There will be three new classes of ships built from three new prototypes under the company’s ten-year investment plan. As a result, MSC Cruises will ensure that state-of-the-art technology is fully incorporated into every step of the development process of each prototype, from conception and construction through to the coming into service of each individual ship.

MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago commented: “From day one, innovation has been at the very core of what MSC Cruises stands for. Each time we bring to the market a new class of ship we develop a brand new prototype, so that we can best address the evolving needs of guests. This distinct approach has led to over 800% growth over the first ten years since we entered the cruising business.”

Mr Vago added: “The length and scale of our investment plan is unprecedented in the industry and it means that we aren’t just planning ships and experiences relevant to our cruise guests in the next few years, but to those we will welcome on board as far out as 2030 and beyond. Technology at the service of the guest experience is advancing at a rapid pace and that is why we’ve already invested €20 million in the first two ships alone, to develop technology and infrastructure that is capable of meeting the needs of guests for years to come.

The holistic and guest-centric programme is focused on connecting guests to their desired holiday experience through cutting-edge technology that is specially engineered to meet their every need, regardless of how they prefer to use technology when travelling. Luca Pronzati, MSC Cruises’ Chief Innovation Officer, concluded: “This journey started three years ago and today guests are less than 90 days away to experience a whole new cruise experience. Together with over eleven of the world’s leading digital, tech and behavioural science experts, among which Deloitte Digital, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Samsung, we are bringing some of their latest and most-advanced solutions and technology on board our ships – in fact, this is where most of these will be available for the first time ever on a cruise ship. Like smart, connected cities, but with the added complexity of being at sea, our fleet will demonstrate MSC Cruises’ commitment to true innovation today and for years to come, making our ships a holiday destination in their own right.”

The need for more connectivity and digitally enhanced guest experience

Guest needs have informed and driven MSC Cruises’ investment in MSC for Me, directly shaping the cruise experience of the future. A research study carried out in partnership with Deloitte Digital identified some of the following key findings:

– Technology must enable our crew in providing an even better service to our guests, and ultimately must enrich human contact.
– With 170 different nationalities sailing with us, the challenge for communicating effectively with guests is complex. There is a need to provide relevant information based on the guest profile, and the digital channels must facilitate the effective delivery of this information.
– To simplify and optimise planning before and during the cruise to help guests better understand all of the offerings available, leaving more time to enjoy their holiday.
– To enhance the experience beyond ‘the life on board’ by integrating the guest experience before and after the cruise as part of a complete customer journey.

Additionally, research showed that more than one in two guests are increasingly looking at customising their holiday experience both before and during their cruise (59%), with one out of six guests (17%) claiming to do so only once they’re on-board. Furthermore, nearly three quarters (73%) of guests claimed to be interested in a holiday at sea on a more connected ship. The research also identified that more than two out of three guests (69%) wish to use a smartphone on board, and more than one in three (36%) uses a tablet whilst at sea.

In response to increasing demand for real-time flexibility, some of the innovative features that are available from MSC for Me are:

+ Navigation: this digital way finder will provide guests on board with advice, guidance and information on what’s on. The technology is similar to smart maps and helps them find their way on the 300+ metre long ships with a 5 metre precision. It also allows guests to locate their children, as needed.

+ Concierge: allows guests to easily book services, restaurants, excursions and more in real time, 24/7.

+ Capture: digital immersive discovery through virtual reality to preview excursions and a gallery with interactive screens showing the unique story of a guest’s trip, which they can share in real time.

+ Organiser: a planning tool for guests to check in with their mobile device, book trips, seats for shows, or the best dinner table, before embarking or when on board.

+ TailorMade: this digital, personal advisor will provide tailored recommendations, based on preferences. Intelligent face recognition will help staff take care of guests in a highly personalised way. Interactive bracelets will connect guests’ to the ship’s services and will activate geo-located suggestions through 3,050 Bluetooth beacons.

Overall, MSC for Me will provide guests with over 130 smart features geared toward a fully optimized holiday experience. These include a dedicated app to help guests tailor their holidays at any point on their journey, whether they are booking their excursions prior to embarkation or a specialty restaurant whilst relaxing by the top-deck pool. This will improve the overall guest experience, while also freeing up more time to enjoy one’s holiday at sea.

MSC for Me will see its initial roll-out across the Company’s new builds, with further refinement and enrichment taking place as each ship comes into service. Its key features will then be rolled out to all 12 ships comprised in MSC Cruises’ existing fleet.

In 2016, MSC Cruises welcomed on board its ships 1.8 million guests from 170 countries. By 2026, the Company expects to welcome over 5 million guests a year.

As market leader in Europe, South America and South Africa, this year marks a milestone for MSC Cruises as the Company will celebrate the christening of MSC Meraviglia in Le Havre on 03 June and MSC Seaside in Miami on 21 December. Two more ships, MSC Seaview and MSC Bellissima are currently under construction and will come into service in June 2018 and March 2019, respectively.

RCCL teams up with PortMiami, county, to build terminal to serve two Oasis class ships

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), the world’s second largest cruise shipping group, together with Miami-Dade County, today broke ground for the cruise Terminal A at PortMiami, the company said in a statement.

Terminal A will serve several Royal Caribbean International ships, including two of the world’s largest cruise ships – Allure of the Seas and the newly announced Symphony of the Seas.

“This is an exciting collaboration with Miami-Dade County and PortMiami to create not just another cruise terminal but an iconic state-of-the-art facility,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “Terminal A reinforces our unwavering commitment to our hometown, the city where our company first started nearly 50 years ago.”

“Miami-Dade County is happy to welcome Royal Caribbean’s Terminal A, and the economic factors that will benefit Miami-Dade," said Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade County Mayor. “Our public-private partnership will have an estimated economic impact of $500 million and generate more than 4,000 jobs. This will make PortMiami Royal Caribbean’s largest cruise port in the U.S., solidifying PortMiami’s status as the 'Cruise Capital of the World.’”

Once completed in October 2018, Terminal A will be LEED certified and accommodate a 1,300-foot long ship. Royal Caribbean will implement the best technologies to deliver a state-of-the-art guest experience. Terminal A will not be the only addition for Royal Caribbean this year, RCL has added a 20,000-square-foot Innovation Lab to its corporate headquarters. The Innovation Lab will continue to generate the design of Royal Caribbean’s industry-leading ships.

Currently, PortMiami welcomes approximately 750,000 Royal Caribbean passengers annually, representing about 15% of its overall passenger traffic. Once the new cruise terminal is completed, it is anticipated that Royal Caribbean will generate at least 1.8 million travelers at PortMiami – representing no less than 30% of the port’s projected passenger traffic, RCCL said.


P&O Cruises to expand scope, Oceana to Arabian Gulf in spring 2019

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

P&O Cruises, the UK focused contemporary market unit of Carnival Corporation & plc, said it would operate the 77,441 gross ton Oceana in the Arabian Gulf in the spring of 2019.

This the first time the company will have a ship based in the region in the modern time. In the time of passenger liner services, its ships served the region. As for Oceana, the ship currently operates year-round in Europe. The ship will operate a series of 11 night fly cruises, based at Dubai, between January and March, plus positioning voyage to and from Europe via the Suez Canal.

Ports of call are Bahrain, Sri Ban Yani Island, Abu Dhabi, Khor al Fakkan, Khasab, Muscat and Salalah, the company said on its website.


Chinese ban of travel to South Korea includes cruises - report

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

Chinese tourism authorities have ordered a total ban on tours, including package tours, to South Korea starting from March 15th. “Online travel agencies were also ordered not to sell South Korean tour products and cruise ships were banned from calling at South Korean ports,’ Korea Broadcasting Service (KBS) said on its website.

“The South Korean embassy in Beijing has launched an emergency task force to minimize damage on Korean residents and businesses caused by China's intensifying retaliation over Seoul's pending deployment of a U.S. missile defense system,” the report stated.

“The embassy held the first task force meeting on Friday and discussed ways to ensure the safety of South Koreans in China including students and tourists, and also examined potential damage Korean companies could suffer,” KBS concluded.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines looks at newbuildings

  • Written by Kari Reinikainen

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, the UK based destinational operator of four ships, is looking at newbuildings, Travel Weekly reports.

Fred. Olsen Junior was quoted as saying: “Just over ten years ago in 2005 we looked at having a new ship but in terms of finances it didn’t make sense at the time. We are looking at it again and we have ships on the drawing board. Any new ships we do produce in the future will be smaller ocean ships which is what we want as a brand and what our customers want.”

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is fully owned by Bonheur ASA, a company listed in Oslo that the Olsen family control.

Mike Rodwell, Managing Director of the cruise line said: “We look at opportunities all the time and a new ship is of course an aspiration of ours but it has to make financial sense.”

The company’s present fleet was built between 1972 and 1993. They range in size from about 25,000 to 45,000 gross tons.