Building “exciting and popular” itineraries

Building “exciting and popular” itineraries
MSC Cruises has opened its own private Bahamian island destination, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve

As cruise lines look to attract passengers back to the seas following the global pandemic, it will become more important than ever for them to build exciting and popular itineraries. According to Elisabetta De Nardo, vice president of port development for MSC Cruises, the itinerary is an integral part of the overall appeal of cruising.

“A cruise is, by definition, a holiday that offers the attraction of a wonderful hotel resort with a wide range of onboard experiences, including fine dining, varied entertainment, sports activities and total relaxation, as well as the ability to visit different countries without having to continually unpack and repack luggage,” she says. “Undoubtedly, the majority of cruisers focus primarily on the itinerary, although the actual ship and all that it has to offer will always be an integral factor when choosing a cruise holiday.” Cruise passengers come from a broad mix of different nationalities, ages and backgrounds, and appreciating these different expectations is part of the skill in building an appealing itinerary.

“There’s no real ‘one size fits all’ and that’s part of the attraction,” says De Nardo. “Everyone has their different and specific aspirations for what will constitute a great and memorable holiday. Popular voyages should always include ‘must-see’ destinations, but others prefer slightly off-the-beaten track itineraries with more overnights and onshore experiences. It’s our role to create a range of different itineraries to match these ambitions and desires. The key for us to have as strong a portfolio of options as possible in the many parts of the world that we serve for all of our potential guests.”

MSC Cruises was the first major cruise line in the world to resume cruise operations with visits ashore after the pandemic, with MSC Grandiosa sailing seven-night itineraries around the Western Mediterranean that will included calls to the Italian ports of Genoa, Civitavecchia and Naples, along with Valletta, the capital of Malta. However, the company is taking a cautious approach to opening up other regions around the world.

“While we are currently resuming operations in the Mediterranean following approval of our health and safety protocol for guests and crew from the relevant local authorities, for other areas of the world we will only restart operations at the right time and when conditions allow,” De Nardo says. “What is for sure is that the successful ports will be those that engage fully with us and have in place a like-minded, robust and rigorous protocol for the well-being of our guests and, of course, for their own employees. We have set a very high bar, which our guests and the onshore communities we have served to date have welcomed. The ports we wish to serve in the future understand that and I’m extremely confident that they will match our exacting standards.”

As the cruise line moves into 2021, MSC will also be welcoming two new ships to its fleet. The Meraviglia Plusclass ship MSC Virtuosa will feature the largest shopping area on any cruise ship, while the Seaside Evo-class vessel MSC Seashore will feature newly designed public spaces and more cabins than her sisters, MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview.

“The additional capacity provides us with greater opportunities to have a wider range of itineraries on offer with the whole fleet,” says De Nardo. “But the fundamentals of itinerary planning remain the same. I think that the itinerary can only become more important in the future as the industry grows, with many rising destinations in the world doing a great job in advertising their attractiveness and authenticity for holidaymakers.”

This article was first published in the 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Alex Smith
By Alex Smith
22 December 2020

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