Cue the orchestra. That was the theme Wednesday in New York as MSC Cruises showed off MSC Orchestra for the first time at a Northeastern port. It's only for one day; the ship will leave port to embark on a transatlantic journey before operating Northern Europe itineraries this summer.
But on Wednesday, it was all about the Big Apple as some of New York's highest officials, including Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Lieber, attended ceremonies on the ship along with MSC Cruises USA's president and CEO Rich Sasso. While MSC Orchestra is only in port for one day, in September 2010, MSC Magnifica, currently under construction, will begin a season of Canada/New England itineraries from New York.
Sasso said his hope for the future would be more MSC itineraries from U.S. ports. "We are looking at full-year sailings from New York," he said, noting that a couple of years ago the discussion to operate a Bermuda itinerary from New York was discussed, but difficulties securing a proper berth put the plan on hold. "We are a household name in Europe; we want to be a household name in North America."
Tom Spina, director of cruise operations for NYCruise, on MSC's arrival, said growth in tourism business is vital to New York and the cruise industry has created 13,000 jobs. "Making New York City a port of call brings in economic activity," he said.
Of MSC, Sasso pointed out that because the company is private, it's more nimble than most publicly-traded lines, which is beneficial for travel agents (MSC is one of only a handful of lines to still offer commissions on shore excursions and booked air). "We are private, fast growing and have the youngest fleet—and we're Italian," he joked.
One of the newer ships is the 2,550-passenger MSC Orchestra, which debuted in 2007. If you are a fan of large ships that offer an array of services, this ship fits the bill. We checked out a standard room with balcony, which was appointed in black and red tones. The room itself was quite compact—164 square feet with a rather miniscule bathroom—but as they say on a cruise, the fun is outside the cabin.
There are an array of restaurants to choose from, including The Shanghai China Restaurant, which does charge an extra fee. The menu consists of cuisine from various regions of China, including Cantonese and Sichuan.
The Shanghai Chinese Restaurant
The back portion of the buffet restaurant is called Four Seasons, and in the evening is transformed into an a la carte restaurant with a menu that ranges from foie gras to filet mignon. There is also a $25 fee to eat here.
We had lunch in L'Ibiscus, one of two main dining rooms, the other being Villa Borghese. Both are open seating for breakfast and lunch, while dinner times are set: 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. We had an enjoyable five-course meal, highlighted by the filet mignon and lobster tail combination. The huge bowl of tiramasu topped it all off. Note: MSC is maybe best known for its pizza. Try the Orchestra, with toppings of tomato, mozzarella, Parma ham, rucola and parmesan cheese.
MSC Orchestra also has a wealth of entertainment options and some of the best shows at sea in the Covent Garden Theatre. If you're a nigh owl, a must is the R32 Disco, which is for
passengers 18 and over. It looks like a modern club with sleek white chairs and couches and an expansive D.J. booth.
Agents can learn more about MSC at www.msccruisesagent.com or www.msccruisesusa.com.