MSC Meraviglia returns to Canadian waters for first time since 2019
IAN STALKER

MSC Meraviglia is now visiting New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia has made a long-awaited and welcome return to Atlantic Canadian waters, a return quickly applauded by those working in the hospitality industry in the Maritimes ports that the 5,642-passenger vessel is calling in.

A late September-early October cruise marked Italy-originating, Geneva-based MSC Cruises’ return to Eastern Canada after a four-year absence, with the company pledging to both boost local economies and provide memorable vacations at sea.

The ship sailed from New York City to Saint John, N.B. on an itinerary that included visits to Sydney, N.S. on Sept. 30, Charlottetown Oct. 1, and Halifax Oct. 8 and is now offering 10- and 11-night voyages highlighting Eastern Canada during fall months known for the changing of leaves.

“We are so excited to be back in Saint John after a four-year absence,” Tammy Thompson of MSC Cruises’ Toronto office said in Saint John during the Meraviglia’s visit. “We are making a lot of noise here in the Canadian market.”

“The return of MSC Meraviglia to Eastern Canada after four years is a cause for celebration. Our guests will be able to enjoy experiencing the beauty and the tranquility found in the region and we believe the sailings will benefit the local economies of the ports and local destinations that the ship will visit,” added Ian Patterson, country manager, MSC Cruises Canada.

The Meraviglia — the name of which means Wonder in Italian — has an innovative and glamorous design that showcases MSC Cruises’ signature European style. The ship’s two-story Mediterranean-style promenade is lined with shops and specialty restaurants — including the HOLA! Tapas Bar and Ocean Cay, restaurants by two Michelin-starred Spanish chef Ramón Freixa, and Jean-Philippe Chocolat & Café, an open fronted chocolate atelier by renowned pastry chef, Jean Philippe Maury.

Entertainment is available around the clock with activities for all ages. Immersive kids and family programs include a winter-themed aqua park with four water slides, a Himalayan bridge suspending cruisers high up above the ship, an interactive XD cinema, two full size bowling lanes and multiple LEGO-designed kids clubs.

Those looking for exclusivity and privacy – while still enjoying all the amenities and choice offered on a larger ship – can book their stay within the MSC Yacht Club, MSC Cruises’ all-inclusive ship-within-a-ship concept, featuring private amenities and 24-hour butler service.

Past years have seen MSC sail Atlantic Canadian waters in fall alone but the Meraviglia is slated to return in spring, with affable, multilingual ship employee Thyago Penha noting that will appeal to people who don’t care for cooler fall weather.

“We are just offering a different itinerary,” Penha says of the Merviglia’s current sailing.

The Meraviglia hosted travel agents from the Maritimes during its Saint John visit, with Thompson familiarizing them about the ship and the company it’s part of, while also reporting that MSC’s roots date back some 3 centuries and it has grown into the world’s third-largest cruise company.

“We’re going for No. 1,” Thompson said, while noting that a company that had 17 ships in 2020 expects to have 23 in 2026 and will carry 5 million passengers by 2027. The company’s Italian background means that “we own the Mediterranean,” she added.

But MSC notes that its presence includes the world’s other great water bodies, stating that it’s the “leader in Europe, South America, the Middle East and southern Africa, with more market share in addition to deployed capacity than any other player. It is the fastest-growing cruise brand, with a strong presence in the Caribbean, North America and the Far East markets.”

Indeed, the cruise company now offers 211 destinations on 5 continents, and has year-round presences in the likes of the Caribbean and Western Mediterranean.

Alessia Tesone of MSC’s Toronto office said those sailing with the company will find “a good mixture” of influences, including Italian, with Italian food and alcohol among those offered guests.

MSC promotes itself as family friendly, citing the likes of the Meraviglia having a teens’ club, LEGO touches and a massive outdoor waterpark. But Meraviglia passengers will also find adults-only areas.

The company has also partnered with Swarovski, with that arrangement reflected in sparkling staircases.

Among travel agents who visited the Meraviglia while it was in Saint John was Delores Frederiksen of CAA Atlantic.

“My initial feeling with MSC was the overall atmosphere was different than other ships we have visited in port,” she said. “Knowing that this is an Italian cruise line, you could really see and feel the European touches in comparison with the larger North American ships. The detail to some items such as the staircases built with diamond-like shapes and lights, really drew your attention in.

“I found that staff was visible at all times and they were all so friendly, even when doing our ship tour they all were very much smiles and saying hello. The dining room has exception service, with 2 servers to each table, with this kind of dining coverage I would imagine that clients are never left long waiting for anything.

“Overall, I would want to find the perfect client to recommend an MSC cruise to. I have not booked MSC before, but I would like to give them an opportunity. As travel agents, we always tend to stick to the product that has ease of recommending their product. Agent platforms, direct numbers and knowing the product is excellent… allows me to recommend it with ease.”

Thompson noted that MSC reaches out to agents in various ways, including commissions on excursions booked through the cruise company, the itineraries of which include Grand Voyages of up to 30 days, while a 116-day World Cruise is slated for 2025.

The Meraviglia’s return to Saint John was welcomed by Mayor Donna Reardon, who visited the vessel while it was in port.

“MSC injects a real energy into the city,” she said, while noting that passengers can not only tour Saint John but the surrounding area as well on tours after disembarking.

Reardon hopes that passengers favourably impressed by Saint John will return, adding history accounts for much of the appeal of the oldest incorporated city in the country.

Research has shown that the combined economic benefit from cruise ships in Halifax and Sydney is more than $225 million* annually, more than $68 million a year in Saint John and $42.4 million in Charlottetown (and the Island)  over a 12-month period.

Meanwhile, MSC Cruises says it is the “only international cruise company to operate a permanent office in Canada.” The fully bilingual Toronto office provides Canadian sales and marketing services to better serve the Canadian market, the company adds. There are over 30 employees in the office, open seven days a week.

Does attraction give MSC Cruises a winning formula? Ship has Formula 1 simulators for passengers

MSC Cruises is using its unique sporting circuit ties to enable clients to experience life in the incredibly fast lane.

The company’s MSC Meraviglia includes among its entertainment options Formula 1 simulators that feature replicas of Formula 1 racing cars that provide an actual sensation of operating one of the sleek vehicles.

The attraction demonstrates ties between MSC and the organizers of the Formula 1 circuit, with a formal agreement between the two seeing MSC’s Virtuosa docked in Abu Dhabi Nov. 23-27, a stay that coincides with that destination’s Formula 1 race. MSC is offering a number of packages for passengers who are Formula 1 fans that can include passes to the actual race.

The cruise company labels the Formula 1 circuit “the world’s most prestigious motor racing competition.”

Red Bull, a F1 team sponsor, was also involved in the simulators’ creation, with the company’s Christian Horner declaring that, “Driving a F1 car is something most of us can only dream of. This simulator is as close as it gets to the real thing.”

Alessia Tesone of MSC’s Toronto office says the Meraviglia’s F1 simulators underscore the variety of entertainment options available for those sailing on the vessel.

“This onboard feature not only enhances the overall cruise experience but also provides a unique opportunity to virtually explore some of the world’s most renowned race circuits while guests are travelling the world with MSC Cruises. It adds an extra layer of excitement, making the journey truly unforgettable,” says Tesone, who toured the Meraviglia when it was docked in Saint John, N.B. in late September.

The simulators are the same size as actual Formula 1 vehicles.

“We are the only cruise line that has this,” adds Thyago Penha, one of the Meraviglia’s staffers.

Penha says the simulators will give “you the sensation” of actually being in a moving Formula 1 vehicle.

Meanwhile, Tesone adds that the Formula 1 attraction will appeal to a wide cross-section of Meraviglia passengers.

“The F1 simulators appeal to guests of all ages who crave the thrill of racing,” she declares.





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