MSC to target the UK

Private Italian line MSC Cruises is to expand its ex-UK presence over the next three years.

The line’s CEO Pierfancesco Vago revaled that 2,000-passenger MSC Lirica would be deployed in Dover in 2009 after the company makes its ex-UK debut next year with MSC Armonia.

This will be followed in 2010 with a “larger new ship”, according to Vago, who declined to give further details.

The focus comes as MSC aims for 150% growth from the UK in 2008 when it will be operating a fleet of nine ships.

MSC is adding four vessels over the next 24 months, with MSC Poesia being christened in Dover on April 5, 2008, followed by the delivery of MSC Fantasia in December 2008. MSC Splendida will then be added and MSC Magnifica in 2010.

MSC expects to carry a total of 800,000 passengers next year and has targeted 50% growth in 2009.

Fantastia and Splendida are claimed to be the largest ships ever bult by a European ship builder and will feature the new MSC Yacht Club, a range of luxury suites, leisure facilities and lounge areas with 24-our butler service.

Vago said research had told the company that there was no sign of a slowing in demand for cruising.

“We still have big growth plans. Whatever tonnage we have put into the market, the market has responded,” he said at World Travel Market.

The company is also emphasising the family-friendly elements on its exsting and future vessels by maintaining a children go free policy for under 18s.

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