MSC Cruises has pledged to bring “newer and larger ships” to the UK after partnering with Southampton on the building of a fifth cruise terminal.
The new terminal – opening ready for the 2021 season – will act as homeport for MSC Magnifica during the ship’s second ex-UK season from May next year.
MSC’s UK and Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso said the line “felt the time was right” to make a “sustainable commitment” to the British cruise sector after growth over the last three years.
“We are committing to having a least one ship based in the UK for many years to come,” he told TTG. Asked how long that period could be, he said: “We’re talking about decades – it’s a long-term commitment”.
“By having our own home it means we have more flexibility of slots and allows us to have even more ships visiting the UK.
“It’s a long-term partnership and there’s a commitment from MSC to the cruise industry and the economy in the UK – we’re serious and we want to continue to grow in the UK and this new terminal is a testament to that.”
The terminal - which features roof-mounted solar power and shore power connectivity capabilities – would allow MSC to bring its newer, greener ships and more technologically advanced vessels to UK waters.
“This a next-generation terminal so it will allow us to host next-generation ships,” said Paradiso.
He recalled how MSC had wanted to expand its ex-UK programme in recent years but had had to negotiate over port slots and embarkation timings.
“In the past we never had a terminal of our own so when it came to the slots and embarkation days we always had to find a compromise but now we can pick.”
Paradiso said MSC’s commitment to the UK market could also be seen in how it had adapted itineraries based on guest and agent feedback.
The line will sail the Mediterranean from the UK for the first time in 2021 – with two 14-night sailings onboard Magnifica departing in July and August.
Weekend “mini sailings” to Northern Europe and seven-night cruises to the Norwegian Fjords will also be offered.