MSC Cruises launches expansion, bonus and new programs
MSC Cruises' Ontario business development manager Mary Anne LaChance joined colleagues at CLIA's Cruise360 event in Vancouver as she was on deck to give Canadian and U.S. travel agents information on the company's product, new ships being launched and incentive programs for travel agents.

MSC Cruises launches expansion, bonus and new programs

VANCOUVER — MSC Cruises is launching aggressive expansion plans that include going after loyalty clients from other cruise lines as the company ramps up from 11 ships to 23, Ken Muskat, the company’s Executive Vice-President told travel agents at CLIA’s Cruise360 conference.

“We have been a leader in Europe and South America,” he said. “And North America is next. We will be a major player.”

Muskat said travel agents are an important aspect of the expansion and the company is providing a number of incentives, a new booking engine, plus sales support to get travel agents on side. He said that MSC has paid 18-25% commission on select product and he urged agents to check out the cruise line’s new revamped website providing travel agents with information on incentives, sales and booking information. For a limited time, he said, MSC is offering Canadian travel agents a 2% bonus on bookings.

MSC Splendida

MSC Splendida.

“We currently sail 1.7 million guests a year and we plan to sail five million guests a year when we add our new ships. There is no way to achieve five million guests a year without the travel agent,” he told attendees at a panel session on inspiring the next generation of cruisers. “We will be a major player by 2026 with 23 ships. Travel agents are incredibly, incredibly important to us.”

MSC plans to add 11 new vessels costing $10 billion by 2026 as a near doubling of its fleet numbers. It’s also increasing capacity with larger ships. Muskat said two of those new ships will be added in 2017. MSC Meraviglia sets sail in June 2017 in the Mediterranean followed by MSC Seaside which will sail Caribbean itineraries from Miami beginning in December 2017. MSC has also purchased its own island in the Bahamas. The company will begin cruises in December 2017 to Ocean Cay, located 32 kilometres south of Bimini.

Muskat said he is aware that many cruise passengers build up a status based on repeat bookings on a particular cruise line and remain loyal as they do not want to lose the incentives that come with the status. “We know that people may not want to switch because they are at their top level. But we will match that status and make them top level at MSC,” said Muskat, a move that will make it easier for travel agents to suggest an MSC product alternative to brand-loyal clients.

While MSC is bringing ships that are being publicized as having the latest technology and design, it is also launching new programs.  One is a wellness program, said Muskat, where there is a focus on the person’s health “before, during, and after” the cruise as it involves a program of fitness and health (including exercise and diet) and utilizes a ship’s trainer and medical staff to develop a plan.

Muskat said that the travel agent is an integral part of MSC’s growth and North American agent support is needed to complete the expansion plan. “We need your help,” he said.