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Newly-renovated MSC Opera to homeport in Havana for Winter 2015-16 cruise season

Geneva, Switzerland, 3 July 2015 – MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned global cruise line and the market leader in the Mediterranean and South America, announced today that, starting in December 2015, its 2,120-guest MSC Opera will homeport in Havana for the winter 2015-16 season to offer guests 16 Caribbean cruises of relaxation and discovery.  

MSC Cruises will give cruise travellers from around the world a unique chance to get aboard the completely renovated 65,542 GRT MSC Opera, part of the Company’s €200 million Renaissance programme, and cruise to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico with two nights and two and a half days in the Cuban capital.

Gianni Onorato, Chief Executive Officer of MSC Cruises, commented: “We are particularly proud to make this exciting new destination available to our guests. For this, I wish to personally thank all those who worked with us over these past several months to make it possible for MSC Cruises to launch Cuba as a destination to its guests. In particular, I wish to thank the Ministers of Transportation and Tourism of the Cuban Government and their representatives for their continued highly professional contribution.”

Mr. Onorato added: “The move to Cuba attests to our steadfast commitment to offer our experienced guests and holiday-makers the best and most sought-after destinations as they become accessible – thus further enhancing our global offering while providing travellers best-in-class experiences and service.”
“The inaugural cruise will take place in less than six months from now,” concluded Mr. Onorato, “but we can definitely attest of the strong demand for the product, due to the combination of the attractiveness of Cuba as a culture-rich destination, coupled with the fact that it is offered through our distinctive MSC Cruises experience.”

The seven-night cruises will be available to MSC Cruises travellers with a combination of packages. In particular, from Spain, Italy, France and Germany, as well as Canada, Brazil and Argentina these will include of fly and cruise combinations. The Company is also pleased to announce that the opening of the sales across all channels for cruises on MSC Opera will be on Thursday 9 July.

To offer local ground services and shore excursions MSC Cruises will partner with Cubanacan, the Cuba-based group created more than 20 years ago known for its experienced professionals and high quality of service.

The first cruise will start from Havana on 22 December 2015, following MSC Opera’s Grand Voyage to Cuba from Genoa, departing on 2 December 2015. To ensure that guests can enjoy and discover the capital city, the Grand Voyage will include a call in Havana on 18 December, and resume its itinerary in the region before heading back to Cuba for its final call of the journey on 22 December. On 12 April 2016, the ship will leave Havana for a Grand Voyage back to Europe, with Warnemünde (Germany) as its final destination, arriving on 7 May 2016.

Explore and unwind
During their two-and-a-half-day stay in Havana, MSC Opera’s guests can explore the city’s stunning old centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and discover its history, culture and architecture. No visit to Havana is complete without a stroll along the famous Malecón seafront promenade, where the island’s renowned laid-back lifestyle is in full effect.

The island of Cozumel, on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, offers some truly spectacular Mayan ruins, at Tulum. Travellers can snorkel with sea turtles and bathe in refreshing cavern waters, explore ancient Mayan caves or bask in the natural beauty of this island, which lies just off the coast of Quintana Roo.
In Montego Bay, on the north-western coast of Jamaica, guests can go white-water rafting in the Martha Brae River, tour an old plantation at the Good Hope Estate or learn about the mysteries of Rose Hall Great House – a fascinating colonial relic imbued with rumour and intrigue.

In Georgetown, the Cayman Islands, guests can snorkel in Stingray City, take a catamaran cruise to the coral reefs or just unwind on the pristine white Seven Mile Beach, on Grand Cayman’s western shore, famed for its gorgeous cobalt waters and coral sands.

MSC Opera’s Renaissance Programme
As part of the €5.1 billion investment plan announced in 2014, MSC Cruises had earmarked €200 million to fully renovate and modernize - through a cutting-edge full renovation project named “Renaissance programme” - four of its existing ships: MSC Armonia, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Lirica and now Havana-bound MSC Opera which is currently in dry-dock and expected to return to service early July 2015.

Other itinerary changes
In connection with the deployment to Cuba, MSC Opera’s original winter 2015-16 schedule in the Canary Islands, Madeira and Morocco has been cancelled.