Whenever MSC Cruises is designing a new ship, individuals across the organisation come together to help the brand to push the boundaries of innovation and create a pioneering vessel that will exceed guest expectations.
The brand’s owners, executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago and the Aponte family, spearhead these projects, dedicating themselves to ensuring that the design, architecture and engineering teams perfect every little detail.
“Vago and the family provide the high-level direction whenever we’re developing a prototype for a new class of ships,” says Trevor Young, vice president of newbuilding and refurbishment at MSC Cruises. “They will outline what type of venues, features, technical profile and other elements he would like us to include. They also take time to refine elements of the design with us – we once went through 72 iterations of the funnel design for one ship to ensure it looked special.
“The family also live and breathe interior design, oversee the whole process and work with us to finalise everything from the colour palettes to the artwork, fabrics, fixtures, fittings and plants. They spend a considerable amount of time onboard a ship in the weeks before it is delivered to supervise all the last-minute outfitting tasks and ensure everything is just right before the first guests step onboard. I don’t know of any other shipowners who are so proactively involved in the entire shipbuilding process.”
Vago, the entrepreneurial chairman of the MSC Cruises division, is dedicated to developing newbuild and refurbishment strategies that will enable the brand to realise the ambitious vision for the future.
“It’s my job to take the family’s bold visions and work with my team, other departments across MSC Cruises and external partners to make them a reality,” says Young. “Collaboration is key to achieving this. We have monthly newbuild and project with Vago at our Geneva headquarters, and I also check in frequently with the leaders of the hotel operations, food and beverage, entertainment and onboard revenue departments on the ships.”
Young’s team constantly seeks feedback from shoreside and shipboard staff, and guests, too.
“One of the most valuable times for me is when I go onboard a ship to chat with guests and crew to find out what’s working well and what could be improved, or just simply to observe them as they navigate the ship,” says Young. “For example, when we trialled a new ‘deck destination’ elevator system from Kone Lifts onboard MSC Grandiosa, I spent hours observing how guests responded to it. I gained valuable real-life insights that I wouldn’t have been able to gather from my desk and this feedback gave us the confidence to fully implement the system on MSC Grandiosa and other ships.”
Young and his team also develop a ‘lessons learned’ document for each newbuild. “We go onboard the ship about six months before it’s delivered and start noting down what is working well and what could be easily improved for the next new vessel,” he says. “We update this document again when we do all the inspections at the time of the ship’s delivery, and then we go back onboard after it’s been operating for three to four months to speak with crew and guests.”
One of Young’s top priorities is to find new ways to introduce more sustainable products and materials on each successive ship. However, he must weigh up multiple factors before making an investment.
“Ideally, we’d choose the most environmentally sustainable materials and products every time, but we need to tick a lot of different boxes to create comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, safe and compliant ships that meet guest expectations, whilst also ensuring we remain profitable,” says Young. “For example, we might find a material made from recycled plastic that meets all our sustainability requirements, but it may not have the mandatory International Maritime Organization certifications, or it may be prohibitively expensive.”
Currently, it’s difficult to strike the right balance between all these factors. However, Young is optimistic that it will become easier as more suppliers find innovative ways to move towards the circular economy.
“Today, many suppliers are still in the early stages of exploring how they can make their products more sustainable in a cost-efficient way, but we’ve already seen some great examples of innovations from pioneering firms,” he says. “There’s a carpet manufacturer that can recycle old carpets and reuse the components in new products, a decking supplier that reuses the dust created during the floor sanding process, and a company that creates planks of ‘wood’ from recycled plastic marine litter. We’re using the latter in outdoor areas on our private Bahamian island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. Becoming more sustainable is now a top priority for everyone in the passenger ship design industry, so it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing other suppliers offering similar solutions at a more affordable price.”
MSC Cruises aims to play a key role in helping to drive sustainable change too. “We’re always pushing our suppliers to make their products or processes more environmentally friendly, and we’re also introducing sustainability clauses into some of our contracts,” says Young. “If stakeholders across the supply chain work together, we’ll hopefully reach a stage where the whole cruise ship interior design industry is operating with a truly circular approach.”
The company’s dedication to protecting the oceans and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 will be reflected on the hull of its latest ship, MSC Euribia, which will debut on 8 June 2023 in Copenhagen, Denmark. It will be the brand’s fifth Meraviglia-class vessel, its second LNG-powered ship and will be equipped with shore power connectivity and various other green technologies.
“MSC Euribia is built for the future and is the most energy-efficient cruise design ever, so Vago wanted the hull artwork to celebrate these credentials and convey MSC Cruises’ sustainability message,” says Daniel Mocreia, senior architect for MSC Euribia. “We also want the fresco to encourage everyone who sees the ship to take action to save our seas and the marine ecosystem.”
For the first time in its history, MSC Cruises invited members of the public to submit designs for the hull artwork. After receiving more than 450 designs from 59 countries worldwide, the brand submitted a shortlist to a panel of international judges that included Vago, architect Martin Francis and Jben, an artist who creates large-scale sand frescos to raise awareness of ocean-related environmental issues. The panel unanimously voted for the #SavetheSea design by German graphic artist Alexander Flämig.
“The artwork features underwater flora and fauna depicted in an ocean-inspired colour palette that is in keeping with MSC Cruises’ corporate branding, so it was a perfect fit,” says Mocreia. “We then collaborated closely with the artist to refine the design and make it as striking as possible.”
Taking the design from paper to hull was challenging. “The design uses eight shades of blue but there’s a very limited range of approved marine paints available on the market, so we had lots of discussions with the artist and the paint manufacturer to find a solution.”
The fresco is just one of several design elements that showcase MSC Euribia’s sustainability credentials. For instance, references can be found in the onboard art collection and also in the vessel’s name. “It pays homage to ancient Greek goddess Eurybia who harnessed the winds, weather and constellations to master the seas,” says Mocreia. “We hope the advanced sustainable solutions onboard our Euribia will help it do the same.”
MSC Euribia will boast MSC Cruises’ signature ‘European elegance’ design style, which will be showcased across luxury suites and staterooms, 10 dining venues, 21 bars, five pools, a spa, the MSC Yacht Club enclave, an aqua park, Sportplex, the MSC Aurea Spa, seven dedicated rooms for children, the MSC Yacht Club enclave, and Galleria Euribia, an indoor promenade covered by the longest LED dome at sea. Several of the signature venues found onboard other Meraviglia-class ships have been reimagined for this vessel. One example is speciality restaurant Kaito Teppanyaki & Sushi Bar, which now features a Robatayaki space for the first time. Another is the Carousel Lounge, a multifunctional venue featuring 1,020 square metres of indoor and outdoor space at the aft of the ship.
“The lounge has become an iconic venue on the Meraviglia-class vessels, but we changed the layout, extended the space to the outdoor deck and increased the food and beverage offering to deliver even better casual dining and entertainment experiences,” says Mocreia. “Guests will love the amazing panoramic views, leisure activities and daily entertainment – there will be something for everyone, whatever the time of day or night.”
Notable new venues include the first MSC Foundation Youth Centre, a speciality French bistro/steakhouse restaurant named Le Grill, and the immersive Helios Wine Bar. Here, guests can learn about the history of wine making, different grape varieties and much more by interacting with the digital multi-touch tables. The bar will also host masterclasses throughout each cruise.
“Guests can easily customise their experience in Helios – they can simply sit and enjoy a glass of wine, or they can educate themselves,” says Young. “It adds an exciting new dimension to the typical bar experience.
Both Mocreia and Young are counting down the days until guests can step onboard MSC Euribia and experience its impressive onboard offerings for themselves. “It’s been challenging to develop MSC Euribia because we’ve pushed ourselves to exceed even our own expectations, but the hard work is worth it when we see guests enjoying themselves and creating life-long memories onboard our ships,” says Mocreia.
This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Interiors. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Interiors for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.