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Cruise Guide: Italian flair woos passengers to MSC Cruises

By Michael Coleman

With Sophia Loren as spokesperson and a cruise experience that promises to be “Beautiful, Passionate, Italian,” what’s not to like about an emerging star in the North American cruise market? 

MSC Cruises may not be a household name here just yet, but a $3 billion fleet expansion, a marketing campaign with film legend Loren, and the clever tag line is attracting passengers to this flourishing line.

Company officials are also banking on the belief that potential guests will gravitate to the genuine, onboard Italian hospitality concept and elegantly-appointed, Italian decor vessels.

It was Loren who, as Godmother, christened the line’s latest vessel in Venice, Italy. MSC Musica, a 90,000-ton, 2,550-passenger gem, entered service in June. Loren also christened MSC Opera (60,000 tons/1,700 passengers) in March, 2004 and MSC Lirica (60,000 tons/1,560 passengers) in April, 2003.

The fleet includes three classic vessels – MSC Melody (formerly the Starship Atlantic of Premier Cruise Lines); MSC Rhapsody (formerly the Cunard Princess); and MSC Monterey. Additionally, the line also features MSC Armonia (formerly European Vision) which entered service in May 2004 and MSC Sinfonia (formerly European Stars) which began service in 2005.

By 2009, with the addition of MSC Orchestra (spring 2007), MSC Fantasia (2008), MSC Poesia (2008) and MSC Serenata (2009) – three of which are under construction now – the line will boast 12 ships and expects to host more than one million passengers annually by 2010.

How will they do it? Loren, the Italian flair and appealing itineraries help, but the addition of special theme cruises, authentic onboard Italian cuisine and a European ambiance, say officials, is key. It won’t hurt, either, that the ships are becoming destinations in themselves.

Aboard MSC Musica, for instance, guests enjoy 22,500 square feet of public space, a 13,000-square-foot spa/beauty facility, three pools, four Jacuzzis, well-equipped fitness center, 7,000-square-foot casino, cigar bar, wine tasting bar, art gallery, onboard shopping opportunities, a 1,200-seat theater, music hall, conference hall, panoramic disco and four restaurants – including a Sushi Bar – offering international and traditional Italian cuisine. In the grand central foyer, which features a waterfall and three bridges, passengers can enjoy piano music while seated on transparent flooring suspended over the water.

In Italy, look for departures from Genoa, Rome and Venice. Mediterranean destinations, meanwhile, run the gamut. Caribbean sailings depart Fort Lauderdale and feature deep Caribbean, Caribbean and Panama itineraries, while Northern Europe voyages depart Copenhagen and Amsterdam with itineraries that explore the Norwegian Fjords, Baltic capitals, Scotland and England.

Look for savings of up to 60 percent for Baby Boomers and seniors on select Caribbean and Panama roundtrip sailings out of Fort Lauderdale aboard MSC Lirica and MSC Opera through spring, 2007. 

Baseball fans, meanwhile, can rub elbows with all-stars and hall-of-famers on MSC Lirica’s 11-night Nov. 26, 2006 and April 18, 2007 Caribbean sailings and golfers can hone their skills on MSC Sinfonia’s May 7 and Oct. 22, 2007 Mediterranean sailings with one of the world’s leading golf trainers: Chuck Cook.

Look for the line to also offer additional theme cruises from hobbies and culture to cuisine, music, well-being and more.

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