A look at the record-breaking retail offering on MSC Virtuosa

CFR's executive editor Jon Ingleton shares why he thinks the retail facilities onboard MSC Cruises' newest ship will surpass guest expectations

A look at the record-breaking retail offering on MSC Virtuosa

Tudor Rose

The Galleria Virtuosa promenade features both 11 boutiques and several restaurants and dining venues

Antonio Paradiso, managing director of MSC Cruises UK & Ireland, stayed onboard the new MSC Virtuosa for the ship’s second sailing and was visibly delighted with the response that his company has received following the much-publicised return of cruising in the UK. MSC Virtuosa is earning high praise for her food and beverage and onboard entertainment but should also be recognised for her record-breaking retailing facilities.

Real estate on contemporary cruise ships is a prized commodity with cruise line departments fiercely competing for every square inch as they seek to outshine rival brands with their food and beverage, entertainment, accommodation and retail offering. Adrian Pittaway, head of retail at MSC Cruises, must have exchanged quite a few favours with his colleagues to secure over 1,168 square metres of retail space onboard MSC Virtuosa in a gamble that must deliver improved retail footfall and positive passenger ratings. Ultimately the line’s commitment to retail will be judged by its revenue performance, but not until full capacity sailings resume. In the meantime, Pittaway is a worthy champion of perhaps the most impressive retailing at sea.

Named Galleria Virtuosa, the central promenade is the heart of the ship and home to the major retail outlets, aglow under a 93-metre LED screen that features over a dozen different digital performances. There are over 240 brands represented in the 11 onboard outlets with all of the traditional cruise retail fare present. The two standout venues are the Virtousa Boutique and the Luxury Plaza.

The Virtousa Boutique is smart and chic with a wider range of clothing and accessories than typical cruise ships can accommodate. The service is pleasingly discreet – store assistants are ready when you look for help but never pushy – and the layout makes the temporary one-way system easy to navigate. But every leisurely step along Galleria Virtuosa eventually leads you into the Luxury Plaza where the neo-classical portico artfully draws you in and sets the tone for the lofty price tags hidden behind the luxury goods within. This is where MSC Cruises’ retail investment will be won or lost, the upmarket celebration of Pittaway’s victory. Bell & Ross, Chopard, Hublot and other big luxury brands will envy Omega’s star billing, occupying a prime and generously spaced position in the Luxury Plaza. Service inconsistencies will be quickly ironed out as the new team settles in and, with prices cheaper than most land-based stores, this is where the company’s retail investment will really pay off.

Beauty, jewellery, branded merchandise, watches and sunglasses, technology and confectionary are all easily found within the Galleria Virtuosa on Deck 6, while the tactical positioning of the Effy Shop adjacent to the Champagne Bar could prove to be a masterclass in influencing impulse shopping. There is undoubtedly a science to travel retailing, I suspect that MSC Virtuosa will significantly contribute to future best practice.

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Jon Ingleton
By Jon Ingleton
28 May 2021

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