MSC Cruises has announced its new Meraviglia Plus-class cruise ship MSC Virtuosa will homeport in China in 2022, after sailing her first Middle East cruise season out of Dubai.
MSC Virtuosa will join sister ship MSC Bellissima in China, marking the first time the cruise line has deployed two ships in China simultaneously.
The itinerary announcement underscores the strong links between the Middle East and Chinese cruise markets, with many of the newest cruise ships earmarked for China often cruising from Dubai en-route, or spending an initial cruise season in the Gulf.
The announcement also clears up some confusion over the future plans for MSC Bellissima, which has spent the 2020 pandemic lockdown in port in Dubai, after being forced to cut short her 2019/2020 Arabian Gulf cruise season.
“Operating two vessels is a crucial upgrade to our development strategy in China,” said Helen Huang, President, China, MSC Cruises. “Deploying two of our fleet’s flagships, in addition, is a testimonial to our commitment and sincerity to develop hand-in-hand with the Chinese cruise industry.”
“To MSC Cruises, China is a key strategic market. Though as an industry we are faced with the challenges of the pandemic, our confidence in the potential of Chinese cruise market remains unshaken,” she added.
“Looking forward, we believe that China is still a promising land for the cruise industry to grow, and we hope to bring new prospects and prosperities with the deployment of our two flagships to this market, to support the recovery of the industry,” said Huang.
The dual deployment of Bellissima and Virtuosa caps several years of gradual growth in the Chinese market for MSC Cruises, mirroring its expansion in the Middle East, where it has previously deployed two ships simultaneously as well.
MSC first entered the Chinese market in 2016 with its small-ship MSC Lirica. She was replaced with MSC Splendida in 2018 and then MSC Bellissima for 2021.
MSC Cruises currently has the largest expansion plan of any cruise line in the world, with 12 ships on order through 2027, including four of the largest in the world, such as the 205,000-gross ton MSC World Europa, which will cruise from the Middle East in 2022.
MSC Europa and her three sisters will be powered by clean-burning LNG, as will another Meraviglia-Plus-class vessel, due in 2023.
The fleet expansion represents an investment of US $11.3-billion and will add 44,496 berths to the company’s fleet.