Mara Friso, Head of Casino at MSC Cruises has been in the industry for almost 30 years. Her career started on board in 1992. She joined MSC Cruises in 2015 and is responsible for all gaming and casino operations for the whole fleet – from the creation of the casino to the installation and operation.
How did you create a casino offering?
When we have a newbuild, we have a blank canvas and our in-house casino team implements its own installation.
First of all, we start with a floor plan and we adapt accordingly the layout and design of the casino. As a global company that deploys ships all around the world, we also need to build in flexibility.
From there, we have to design a casino, so we select the slots machines, their number and location, the position of gaming tables, as well as how are we going to load the machines. Then, we start benchmarking what are the ‘hot’ games and what is less popular amongst players. For instance, we know that guests are looking for interactive games and bonus rounds.
We also make sure we feature world-class games for all types of players, from first-timers to experienced aficionados. We select games for guests who only wish to play occasionally in the casino, while we are also able to accommodate the high roller, who wants to play 25 dollars to spin on a machine or 5000 euros a hand at a table.
How important is the casino for the overall entertainment offering?
Our prime focus is on entertainment. We always make sure we offer a state-of-the art casino with the latest gaming technology and signage, including big screens, exciting animations and a bar to complement the experience.
Everything is set to make guests feel like they are in a Las Vegas-style casino, just on a smaller scale. Each one of our casinos is elegantly designed and boasts a glamourous atmosphere, perfect for thrills and fun for all our guests.
What are the popular parts of the casino amongst guests? Also, any specific casino trends you have seen over the years?
The slot machines tend to be the main focus for our guests. We always make sure that the casino floor is current and stays fresh with the latest gaming technology.
More than trends, you see certain games considered as popular games for any casino. We need to make sure we are able to offer the popular slots and all casino classics such as Roulette, Blackjack and Poker. When guests go on board, they see something very similar to what they are used to seeing in a land-based casino.
How do you select the games to put forward in the casino? Can you explain what feedback you receive from guests regarding their casino experience?
We work closely with our suppliers to make sure we offer the right product for the right market, on the right ship. As our suppliers also furnish equipment worldwide, it enables us to know which games are popular in which market.
In China, the slot “Duo Fu Duo Cai” is one of the most popular games. Our Chinese guests don’t normally play at slot machines, but whenever we put this game on board, they play it. This game is actually a firm favourite all over the world, it’s our number one performer and has been since we placed it on board five years ago.
The feedback from our guests depends on their success in the casino, as some of our guests even sit there from morning to night. You have different types of players depending on the market. For instance, in the U.S, players are early risers that come to play. In Europe, they will come later to the casino but will stay later. In China, they can stay overnight!
What is specific to the casino on board MSC Seashore, in terms of design and specific games?
MSC Seashore features the largest casino in our fleet, with 1,135m2 of the latest and greatest games. When our latest flagship calls in the Mediterranean, her casino will offer 182 slot machines and 12 tables. Before she goes to the U.S in November for Caribbean sailings, we will increase the number of slots to 200 because we know that we get more demand in the U.S than we do in Europe.
Playing at the casino also comes with perks for the ultimate holiday at sea, and MSC Seashore is no exception. With the MSC onboard rewards programme launched in 2015 our guests can win anything from a discounted cruise to a free cruise for two. The more you play, the more you are rewarded. Guests can win complimentary rewards such as vouchers for free ashore excursions, spa treatments, and gifts. We really like to reward our players and make sure they keep coming back.