Industry-First Innovations Aboard MSC Lirica
Beijing, PRC, 26 October 2015 –CAISSA Touristic Group, China's leading outbound tourism service provider, and Geneva, Switzerland-based MSC Cruises, the number one cruise line in Europe, South America and South Africa, reaffirmed the strength of their recently announced strategic partnership at a joint press conference in Beijing today, disclosing details of the cruise experiences to be offered aboard MSC Lirica. The ship is set to serve the Chinese home market from Shanghai, starting in May 2016.
CAISSA Touristic’s President Chen Xiaobing emphasized the popularity of MSC Cruises’ European and South American routes with travellers from around the world and that it had recently been named the number one cruise line in Europe.
He said: “MSC Cruises’ distinctive European flavour resonates well with CAISSA Touristic’s brand spirit, which also originates from Europe. Additionally, what makes this partnership stand out from other traditional agreements between China-based tour agencies and cruise lines is the emphasis that will be placed on the training of the entire on-board staff to ensure guests receive the best-in-class MSC Cruises’ 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 and more, to fit the customs and tastes of Chinese guests it is designed to serve.”
MSC Cruises Chief Executive Officer Gianni Onorato added MSC Cruises’ private ownership gives the Company a clear edge in China, as it already does in other global markets.
He said: “Everything on an MSC cruise, from the hospitality, cuisine and staffing, to the ship’s interiors, is designed and controlled in-house, with meticulous attention to quality and detail, the way only a family-owned company can. This means we can customize every aspect of our offering – right down to a new Cruise Ambassador role we have created just for MSC Lirica – to meet the needs of consumers in the markets we serve.”
He added: “We’re customizing MSC Lirica by drawing on the unrivalled local knowledge of our partner, CAISSA Touristic. Moreover, MSC Lirica is the perfect size to enable guests to get the very most out of this customization, which means she brings to the market a cruise product, specifically designed to meet the needs of Chinese consumer, that is truly like no other.”
During the press conference, Mr Onorato presented various industry-first innovations, particularly in onboard dining, entertainment and guest service, which will guarantee Chinese guests experience a unique offering that’s tailored to their tastes, from boarding to disembarkation.
Authentic Upscale Cuisine: partnership with star Chinese chef Jereme Leung to create menus and dining concepts.
In addition to a range of quality dining options from the Mediterranean region, MSC Lirica’s guests will encounter exquisite oriental and international cuisine throughout the ship, created by celebrity Chinese chef Jereme Leung. A household name in China and revered by Far Eastern gourmets worldwide, Chef Leung will create a unique oriental fusion restaurant called Jia Yao, offering diverse, freshly-made specialities from around China, including his trademark “hot pot” and a roster of other signature dishes.
Additionally, to further strengthen the authenticity of the dining experience, Chef Leung will provide MSC Lirica’s chefs with specialized training in the traditional cooking methods that are his trademark, while front-of-house staff will also undergo specific Jereme Leung training around the cuisine and clientele they will serve.
MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato explained: “We’re really excited about having Jereme Leung at our side in this venture. He has a deep knowledge of Asian cuisines that extends well beyond China’s borders, which is why he’s also instrumental in the development and delivery of other on-board menus and dining concepts, including the Kaito sushi restaurant; the 20-hour-a-day Chinese and international buffet and La Bussola, which will serve dishes from across Asia and around the world, plus a Chinese tea bar.”
An additional plus for groups and families seeking an intimate dining experience is the ability to book private dining options in the Ippocampo restaurant.
Nonstop Entertainment: a packed 20-hour-a-day programme of activities and shows for groups, families, children and couples.
Another award-winning feature of the MSC Cruises offering is entertainment. Building on this, MSC Cruises and CAISSA Touristic have built a round-the-clock programme of live music and dance shows, fun activities, leisure and games to suit all guests, whether groups, families and children or couples.
Daytimes will be packed with a range of entertainment and social options, including activities for children, adults and families, plus five distinct kids’ clubs for all age groups. In addition, parents can join their kids in the exhilarating open-air spray park, or watch from the shady comfort of a lounger under one of the ship’s newly installed sun canopies. Daytime activities will include favourites such as arts and crafts, European history and culture lectures, language classes, yoga, tai-chi and fitness sessions, and a great many besides.
Evenings will come alive with spectacular stage shows, live music, dancers, illusionists, cabaret artists and more. Throughout the ship’s lounges and bars, 12 musicians will perform American, European and Chinese numbers. And the theatre will offer three nightly sittings with magic shows, a professional tenor, full dance troupes and variety artists. Otherwise, guests can also attend a choice of theme evenings, such as Hollywood Night, Italian Night or Rock Star Night, or participate in fun games, such as Dancing With the Stars and Karaoke Superstar.
Peerless Service: personal Cruise Ambassadors to ensure start-to-finish relaxation, entertainment and discovery.
At the press conference, Mr Onorato commented: “MSC Lirica’s guests will enjoy a new personal service previously unseen in the industry. Under a unique new staffing structure we’re introducing here for the first time, specially recruited and trained Cruise Ambassadors, will be assigned to specific guests during their cruise.”
He explained that this service had been created to meet every need of guests onboard MSC Lirica, and to ensure they fully benefit from the entire range of relaxation, discovery and entertainment options. To make every cruise completely stress-free, these professionals will chaperone their guests at all key moments, acting as social host, fixer, guide and information point as required.
The Cruise Ambassadors, who will speak Mandarin as well as English, will provide round-the-clock access to information and assistance whenever they want it. These trained professionals will be fully informed of all onboard amenities, services and experiences, as well as the ports of call.
One example of the ‘extra-mile’ services they will provide is handling guests’ restaurant, entertainment or shore excursion bookings. Then, if guests wish, their Cruise Ambassador can join the group for the dinner, show or excursion.
“It’s bold innovations like the Cruise Ambassadors that we believe will really make the difference to our Chinese guests, and keep them coming back to MSC Lirica,” Mr Onorato said.
Additionally, MSC Lirica will be staffed by an industry-leading ratio of Mandarin-speaking personnel, with as many as 80% in some departments. Staff will be recruited and trained through Chinese schools of excellence, while managers will also undergo on-the-job training aboard other MSC Cruises ships.
Other highlights revealed include a large, varied casino with Chinese favourites and classics, plus a private baccarat and sic bo room. And an extensive range of boutiques carrying leading high-end European brands, including but not limited to, Gucci, Bulgari, Longines and Tag Heuer.
As announced in September, the strategic cooperation between MSC Cruises and CAISSA Touristic 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 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. She will then begin sailing mostly three- and four-day itineraries, calling South Korea and Japan, although longer options will be available.