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Top Management Profiles

Pierfrancesco Vago – Executive Chairman

As Executive Chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago leads MSC Cruises’ strategy and long-term vision, focusing on the Company’s sustained growth and the development of its fleet and terminal portfolio. In this role, which he assumed in 2013, he has spearheaded the launch of MSC Cruises’ second fleet expansion plan. It will see up to six ship classes join the Company’s fleet in ten years.

Mr. Vago also oversees the MSC Group’s subsidiaries with strategic relevance to the tourism sector, including ferry operator GNV and MSC’s future luxury cruise brand that is set to start operating in 2023.

As Chair of the MSC Foundation’s Executive Committee, he oversees the MSC Group’s philanthropic efforts, focusing on conservation, humanitarian and cultural projects.

In January 2021, Mr. Vago was appointed CLIA Global Chairman. In this position, he is leading the cruise industry’s efforts to resume service following the global halt of cruise operations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Vago has been closely involved in the cruise industry’s global association for many years and from 2014 to 2016 he held the Chairmanship of CLIA Europe.

From 2003 to 2013, Mr. Vago was MSC Cruises’ CEO. In this position, he oversaw MSC Cruises’ first phase of expansion, which saw the first 12 purpose-built cruise ships join the Company’s fleet in just ten years.

Mr. Vago began his career in the family business, Franco Vago SpA, one of Italy’s leading transport companies. He joined MSC Group’s cargo business Mediterranean Shipping Company in 2000, becoming Line Manager for the USA, Mexico, and Canada in 2001.

Mr. Vago studied Economics in the UK, at St Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge.

Gianni Onorato – Chief Executive Officer

As Chief Executive Officer of MSC Cruises, Gianni Onorato oversees the Company’s growth from its Geneva-based headquarters and reports to the Board of Directors and to its Executive Chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago.

With over 30 years’ experience in the cruise industry, Mr. Onorato has a finely developed understanding of the cruise business and extensive knowledge in senior executive leadership, having served as President of Costa Cruises from 2004 to 2013.

Born in Italy, Mr. Onorato graduated from Naples’ Istituto Orientale with a degree in Foreign Languages and Literature in 1983, and then specialized at SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan and INSEAD in Fontainebleau.

He began his cruise industry career in 1986 at Costa Cruises as Food and Beverage Manager before becoming Cruise Product Director. From 1997 he served as Vice President & Cruise Operations Director and was responsible for logistics and provisioning, as well as all activities relating to calls, excursions and hotel operations.

Richard Sasso – Chairman, MSC Cruises USA

Richard E. Sasso, chairman of MSC Cruises North America, has been a popular and well-respected figure in the cruise industry for more than 44 years and involved in the travel industry for 48 years.

After holding key positions at Costa Cruises and Chandris Cruises, Sasso joined the senior management team that launched Celebrity Cruises in 1990. He served as president of that line from 1995 to 2002 and was instrumental in establishing it as a top premium cruise line.

Sasso was named president of MSC Cruises USA in April 2004. Since then, he has effectively positioned MSC Cruises for growth in the North American market and in November 2013, MSC Cruises debuted one of its most dazzling vessels, MSC Divina, to Port Miami. In August 2016, Sasso assumed the role of Chairman of MSC Cruises for North America.

Backed by one of the world’s largest container shipping companies, MSC Cruises has emerged as a fast-rising star, winning multiple industry awards over the years for its world-class entertainment, unique itineraries and authentic international cuisine. MSC Cruises is the largest privately owned cruise line in the world with a fleet of 12 cruise ships. It is also the fastest growing cruise lines in the industry – growing 800 percent in capacity between 2004 and 2014. MSC Cruises is in the midst of a $10.2 billion investment plan which will bring up to 11 new next-generation ships into service between 2017 and 2026.

In 1999, Sasso was named “Cruise Industry Executive of the Year” by a leading travel industry trade magazine. In 2011, he received the coveted “Hall of Fame” recognition from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) for his many efforts and accomplishments that have led to significant contributions in the growth of cruise vacations. Over the years, he has served as chairman of both CLIA and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) as well as chairman of CLIA’s Marketing Committee.

Sasso recently published UnselfishWorld, a book based on his philosophy of encouraging ourselves and others to be the most unselfish individuals we can be.

Sasso lives in Ocean Ridge, Fla., with his wife of 44 years, Carmen.

Emilio La Scala - President and Managing Director - MSC Cruise Management (UK)

As President and Managing Director of MSC Cruise Management, Emilio La Scala is in charge of MSC Cruises’ Technical Operations and New Building Departments. La Scala recently lead the department’s transition from Sorrento (Italy) to Stockley Park (UK).

His responsibilities encompass the company’s safety, security and environmental programmes; the development of comprehensive fleet quality assurance; and extensive renovation projects along with overseeing the project management of new builds.
La Scala studied at the Naples Nautical Institute, graduating in 1978. He then embarked with MSC Cargo vessels as a deck officer, obtaining the certifications and requirements required to pursue a maritime career. In 1984 he started working as assistant to MSC’s Technical Director, taking part in the renovation and repurposing of traditional cargo ships to container ships.
In 1990, following MSC’s acquisition of the SS Monterey, La Scala became General Manager of MSC Cruises’ Technical Department, heading a team of more than 100 personnel in charge of planning, building and managing MSC’s expanding fleet of cruise ships.