MSC Cruises - Solo Cabins, Family Restaurants & more to come

MSC CRUISES

MSC Cruises wants to be the cruise line for everyone, and it has to be. With an investment of $10.2 billion in expanding its fleet with 11 additional ships, new and more versatile options will have to cater to its international audience, old and young, families and singles, who might differ in language, income and even sense of humor.

"Having big ships, we are able to accommodate different types of customers," said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, in an interview with Cruise Critic at Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, where its Seaside-class ships are under construction.

Big they will be: MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview, debuting in December 2017 and June 2018 respectively (with an option for a third ship), will have 5,179 passengers each; the Meraviglia Class -- launching 2017 through 2019 -- will accommodate 5,700 passengers each; the Meraviglia Plus Class -- launching 2020 and 2022 -- will carry 6,297 passengers; and when the World Class debuts sometime around 2022, those four ships will have an unprecedented capacity for 7,000 passengers each. From 2017 to 2026, MSC expects to nearly triple its total number of passengers from 2 million to more than 5 million.

"We are addressing everyone, so each one can find a favorite place and each one can find the right restaurant to go to," Onorato said. "[Seaside] is our first experience with a multiple number of restaurants, including one area fully dedicated just for families with kids."

MSC Seaside has 111 modular cabins that accommodate more passengers, and The Reserve will be a casual restaurant exclusively for families. Other restaurants span a three-part Asian Market Kitchen (pan-Asian, sushi and teppanyaki) helmed by celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, along with an American steakhouse called the Butcher's Cut, while passengers in the expanded Yacht Club will have a dedicated restaurant.

To fit in with MSC’s four dining options (Classic, My Choice, Flexi and Yacht Club's private dining), entertainment has also moved from two set seatings to multiple shows each night. This also accounts for older Americans who may enjoy an early meal or Italians who tend to dine late. "We increased the acts so there are options to see the show tonight, tomorrow, 6 p.m. or 10 p.m,” said Onorato.

Technology will also help people decide where and how to eat. Reportedly similar to Carnival Corp.'s new Ocean Medallion, MSC will have an app to download before your cruise so you can fill in your preferences. Other features are expected to include reservations, wayfinding onboard, a kids locator to find your child, and an interactive gallery that automatically presents your photos as soon as you enter the digital corridor. For the time being, MSC is sticking with a cruise card, but a bracelet -- similar to a smartwatch -- is also an option. A second phase, in conjunction with associates such as Samsung, is expected to add the ability to enter a store and virtually try on clothes using a digital mirror.

Advanced technology will also be used in the kids' clubs, from interactive game tables to social video play. Facial recognition technology might eventually detect your profile so the shopkeepers know who you are, what you like and your shopping habits.

"We need to combine the traditional way ships are built today with new technology, which changes a lot," Onorato said. "Our priority with Meraviglia was to make sure the aft lounge accommodated Cirque du Soleil, which is even more complicated than your regular show. Normally the theater is the first thing you do, and this time it was the theater and the show lounge because the needs and requirements are changing all the time."

Cirque performances onboard will combine food and drink in unique ways, priced at 10 euros for drinks and a show or 35 euros for dinner and a show.

Cruise Critic can also exclusively reveal that MSC Cruises is actively investing in the future of single travelers, with plans to build solo cabins and a shared lounge with a TV and library. The solo cabins will debut on Meraviglia, with a special price instead of a supplement, the line revealed to us.

When asked if the line is targeting the millennial demographic, Onorato said: "Millennials are couples, families and also made of singles, so this is a sub category of everyone."

In our tour of first-in-class MSC Seaside today, about ten months from launch, we learned it will have the most outdoor space of any cruise ship, the highest ratio of outdoor space per passenger, the longest zip line at sea, panoramic glass elevators that rise non-stop from the atrium to the top decks, a glass-bottom skywalk overlooking the aft decks, a full-size bowling alley, 20 bars, restaurants that can accommodate 1,000 people, and a DJ booth made from half a Cadillac. The ship also has an innovative, energy-saving hull design and an engine room in the middle (rather than the aft) to balance the indoor/outdoor space ratios.

The coin ceremony, which officially marks construction on MSC Seaview, the next vessel in the Seaside Class, is scheduled for tomorrow at the Fincantieri shipyard, where Cruise Critic will be covering it live.