MSC Makes North American Push, Regionally and with Agents

MSC Cruises has long been a household name in Europe; now it's trying to pursue the same title in the United States. The cruise line has announced that MSC Orchestra, the line's newest ship, will operate seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises beginning in 2009, joining MSC Lirica, which was MSC's lone ship in the region, having sailed 10-day Caribbean itineraries for several seasons. In addition, MSC is launching a new agent loyalty program, which will include a year-long cash giveaway to coincide with Orchestra's arrival.

The 2,550-passenger MSC Orchestra will launch its first cruise to the Caribbean from Ft. Lauderdale on January 3, 2009, and alternate seven-night cruises through April 25. Eastern Caribbean ports of call will be Cayo Levantado in the Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, St. John and Nassau; Western Caribbean ports of call will be Key West, Cozumel, Georgetown and Cayo Levantado.

"We're coming to America in a big way," said Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises, USA. While MSC has a European heritage, Sasso said that Americans will enjoy the "Italian halo" and culture of the ship, but that all of the comforts Americans look for will, too, be present, such as familiar foods. Not that the Italian onboard is shabby. "People fly to Italy to eat this well," Sasso said. "We're bringing it to the Caribbean," (he recommends the risotto). Cruise-only prices will begin at $449 per person for the seven-day itineraries and $699 per person for the 10-day sailings on MSC Lirica, whose Caribbean season began on December 3, and alternates between seven- and 10-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.

Meanwhile, while MSC is deploying more of its hardware stateside, it too is making a push to ingratiate travel agents. MSC is launching a dedicated agent loyalty program, the new MSC Rewards True Partner Loyalty Club. Agents who register at ( will earn points for bookings made with MSC, and the accumulated points can be redeemed for special rewards.

The announcement coincides with MSC's "The Orchestra is Coming to Town" cash giveaway, wherein each week, beginning January 25, 2008 and up to Orchestra's January 2, 2009, arrival, agents will have the opportunity to win up to $2,000. All agents who sign up at MSC's agent website will be eligible to win the weekly $500 prize; agents who are members of MSC's loyalty program or had a booking under deposit made the prior week or a group blocked under deposit anytime prior to the drawing will have the prize doubled to $1,000; and if an agent does both, the prize goes to $2,000. "We are the agent's friend," Sasso said of MSC, which is one of only a few to still give commissions on shore excursions, airfare and spa. "We haven't cut back." Visit (DE)

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