This morning at 9 a.m. EST, MSC Cruises opened its brand new office in Mississauga, and by doing so, has become the only cruise company in North America to open a Canadian office.
READ MORE: MSC Cruises opening Canadian office
Prior to the grand opening, all of MSC's Canadian workers were working remotely for the past 15 years.
"We've seen what the Canadian market has done for MSC Cruises since we moved to Miami and expanded the fleet," Ian Patterson, country manager, told PAX.
"MSC's success is based on being close to the markets we operate in, so having a local presence will help us work more with the trade in Canada and understand their needs better," added Roberto Fusaro, president, MSC Cruises USA.
In tune with Canada's needs
Understanding the needs of a bilingual nation, MSC's new office is fully bilingual, and also offers materials and support in both English and French.
According to Patterson and Fusaro, MSC is seeing tremendous growth in the Quebec market.
In addition to offering support in both of Canada's national languages, all cruise product will be sold in Canadian dollars, making it easier for travel agents to sell.
"The Canadian market resonates with our brand, as we are a multilingual brand; a multicultural brand with a Mediterranean heritage," Patterson explained. "We make it a cornerstone of what our messaging is, and that's why it's important for us to offer the brochures in French as well."
Putting the flag in the ground
According to Patterson, MSC's commitment to Canada was recognized following the brand's homeporting out of Miami.
"If a travel agent knows that they have somebody that's local, they're confident that we're not going anywhere, and we're definitely not," Patterson said.
Asides from receiving support during regular contact centre hours, Patterson told PAX that MSC Cruises is currently looking at various chat programs that agents can access. The company also has a platform dedicated to Canadian travel agents called MSC Book, which offers 24/7 online support. Agents can also find all available resources, brochures, and flyers here.
"This isn't just a physical office space; there are 15 people working here at all times to assist the trade," Fusaro said. "The team here lives and breathes the marketplace here, and that means they're able to meet the demands. We'll continue to support this significant investment, and we're confident it will pay off."
A growing demand
MSC Cruises continues to see a demand for itinerary-driven experiences, with a lot of uptake out of Miami. The company currently works with Sunwing and Transat to create packages for Canadian travellers in order to meet the needs for every type of traveller.
Family travel continues to be a hot-selling segment for the cruise company, in part due to the exceptional experiences and amenities on board, like the one-of-a-kind Cirque du Soleil performances at sea, and the kids clubs that accommodate youth from the ages of two to 17.
"Our partners have actually moved some of their flights strictly into Miami for our cruise ships," Patterson said.
MSC Cruises has also seen demand grow in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, where the brand has added significant tonnage in the last several years. Dubai is another country that's seeing growth, especially given that many of MSC's new builds, including the Bellissima, will go next winter.
Get on board
MSC has several partnerships in place that benefit small travellers, like Lego and Chicco, which enable the brand to provide creative and engaging spaces for a younger crowd. Through its partnership with Chicco, MSC is able to offer parents certain baby-focused products like strollers or bottles, which not only makes packing for the cruise easier, but makes families feel right at home.
From a dining standpoint, MSC Cruises offers Michelin-star dining to its guests, and employs chefs from all over the world to provide exceptional gastronomy in tune with the destinations the brands' fleet visits.
"Everybody wants something different, and that's where our bigger ships give us the opportunity to provide a different experience," Fusaro explained. "That's why we're working to develop these local experiences that allow our guests to get out there and explore the local culture and get off the beaten path."
On the Meraviglia-class ships, MSC has an exclusive partnership with Cirque du Soleil, which means non-guests will never see the same show off the ship.
During an interview with PAX yesterday evening, Patterson and Fusaro also noted that the company has just entered a partnership with Martha Stewart, who has curated shore excursions and holiday dinner recipes on board, allowing guests to select dinner packages that can be delivered straight to their staterooms, whether that's to celebrate a special milestone, or just because.
MSC's new ship, the MSC Grandiosa, will have an innovative art experience on board, giving guests a more culturally-immersive experience opposed to some of the more commercially-focused elements offered by other brands.
MSC is set to welcome 13 new ships to its fleet. Currently, the brand's top-selling market is out of the Caribbean and Miami, where four ships will operate this winter season.
"We don't have a dominant market like other cruise lines do," explained Fusaro. "We have several markets that are very important, but not one single market represents our sales, or even close to that. There's five or six major players, and another 10 important markets. Right now, Canada is one of those very important markets."
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