MSC Cruises has become the latest in a string of Western cruise lines to expand its fleet to China, after the line announced plans to send its 2,600 capacity ship, MSC Lirica, to homeport in Shanghai from May 2016.
Entering into a partnership with outbound Chinese travel agency, Caissa Touristic Group, MSC Cruises plans to send Lirica on a 60-day global cruise to Shanghai after the ship has left its current homeport of Rio de Janeiro on 3 March.
Once the ship has reached Chinese waters, MSC Cruises will become the fourth international cruise line to enter the Chinese cruise market over the past 12 months — a fact which demonstrates the growing strength of China’s cruise and tourism industry, as well as the eagerness of Western tour operators to exploit this blossoming marketplace.
Prior to its inaugural sailing in China, MSC Lirica will undergo a dramatic USD $200 overhaul — a transformation which will include enlarging the ship itself to afford a greater passenger and crew capacity.
Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, enthused on the China expansion: “MSC Cruises has been present in China since 2010, successfully bringing Chinese guests to cruise on its ultra-modern fleet to its many global destinations and, especially, to Europe and the Mediterranean, where our distinctive product made us the number one cruise line across the entire Continent.
“We are now delighted and excited that through this partnership we are taking our presence in China to the next level.”
Onorato went on to add that Lirica’s multimillion dollar makeover is intended to prepare it for the requirements of Chinese cruise passengers, with several new amenities and features added to ensure it is a sought-after choice for cruise-goers in the region.
Chen Xiaobing, President of Caissa Touristic Group, said this of the new partnership: “MSC Cruises’ distinctive European flavour resonates well with Caissa Touristic’s brand spirit, as it also originates from Europe.
“We are convinced that the newly-renovated MSC Lirica will bring exciting new holiday-making choices to Chinese guests and are looking forward to welcoming numerous would-be cruisers aboard, at a time when the cruise market in the country for this particular type of product is thriving.”
While MSC Cruises is yet to confirm details of specific sailings in China, Lirica is expected to reach Shanghai on Sunday 1 May 2016. For further details on the progress of the ship as they develop, stay tuned to the Cruise1st Australia blog.
Images sourced via MCS Press Center and Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: MSC Cruises, Juan Llanos.