EUROPE. MSC Cruises’ latest ship, Meraviglia, has set sail on its inaugural summer itinerary plying the Western Mediterranean, with an “exciting and bespoke” retail offer.

The ship departed from Genoa yesterday (11 June).

Movie legend Sophia Loren cuts the ribbon with MSC Group Executive Chairman Gianluigi Aponte (right)

As the 13th ship to join the fleet – and the first under an ambitious €9 billion (US$10.1 billion) investment plan – Meraviglia will help to triple the size of in-house retail business MSC Boutiques in the next ten years.

The ship was christened by movie legend Sophia Loren at an event in Le Havre in France on 3 June. Loren has a close relationship with MSC Cruises: she first became godmother of MSC Lirica in 2003 and has blessed every new ship since then.

At the launch, MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago commented: “We have an ambitious vision for the future and MSC Meraviglia marks the start of the second phase of growth for our company.”

This phase will see the delivery of six new purpose-built ships, with a design which Vago describes as “a new standard for cruise ships as a destination in itself”.

Bespoke and exciting: MSC Meraviglia‘s retail mall

With 2,244 cabins and a guest capacity of 5,714, Meraviglia (meaning ‘wonder’) is the biggest ship to be built by a European ship owner. It is also the biggest ship to come into service in 2017. Meraviglia is the first of 11 ‘next-generation’ ships to be introduced by Swiss-based MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line.

MSC Cruises Head of Corporate Retail Adrian Pittaway describes the ship as “the most unique cruise shopping area of any ship in the world”. In total it has 600sq m of space encompassing 300 brands in ten boutiques. MSC Cruises promises a -15% average saving compared with downtown, as well as 250 exclusive MSC Cruises products only available on its ships.

Separately, the ship has 12 distinct dining venues and 20 bars and lounges, including a chocolatier and crêperie by award-winning pastry chef Jean Philippe Maury and Kaito Sushi Bar.

With 2,244 cabins and a guest capacity of 5,714, Meraviglia is the biggest ship to be built by a European ship owner

Speaking to The Moodie Davitt Report, Pittaway said: “For MSC Meraviglia, we involved all of our partners to develop an exciting and bespoke shopping experience. Most importantly, at the heart of this ship is the guest service we offer. This has allowed us to develop a fully-tailored service using a multilingual team.”

That team includes Chinese, Italian, Romanian, Portuguese and French speakers. The wider retail staff includes experienced personal shoppers, jewellery specialists, trained perfumery specialists, retail ambassadors and other product experts.

“With this training and experience they are hosting special events, speaking the correct languages, offering Yacht Club exclusive invitations and delivering a shopping experience that is at the heart of the ship,” said Pittaway.

Retail ambitions on a firm footing

The sixth deck of the Meraviglia is the focus for retail, with most key categories covered and “many travel retail exclusives unable to be bought downtown or on other cruise lines”, according to the company.

Travellers can find a large beauty offer featuring major international brands such as Chanel, Dior, Lancôme, Estée Lauder, and Clinique while watches and jewellery hunters  have a choice of over 30 labels including Fossil, Skagen, Ray-ban, Tissot and Michael Kors.

At the higher end, the ship’s Watchmaker shop sells fine timepieces and luxury jewellery with personal shopping available. Brands here include Bulgari, Chopard, Longines and Tag Heuer.

The MSC Boutiques team, the in-house retail operation of MSC Cruises

The fashion jewellery store encompasses Swarovski, Thomas Sabo, Buckley and Majorica among others. Designer brands ranging from Italy’s Armani Jeans, Coccinelle and Furla, to Lacoste, Paul & Shark and Ralph Lauren can be found in the Boutique store.

An MSC Shop, with its own range of Slam fashion, plus a Mini Mall selling confectionery brands (such as Toblerone, Lindt, Kinder and M&M’s), snacks, technology and toys – with bespoke selections from Lego, Samsung and Chicco – complete the offer.

Other key features that set Meraviglia apart include:

  • Entertainment from Cirque du Soleil, with two exclusive Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows created for the flagship vessel.
  • The widest range of dining options and bars on any of MSC Cruises’ ships to date (12 dining venues and 20 bars).
  • A dedicated family deck area including a new entertainment offering.
  • MSC for Me, a digital experience allowing guests to find experiences relevant to them.
  • MSC Yacht Club luxury accommodations spanning three decks, private facilities and butler service round-the-clock.
  • The longest LED screen at sea (80m) called Sky Screen encompassing a 96m-long Mediterranean-style promenade, designed to become the social hub of the ship.
  • 10 different types of cabin for a wide variety of consumer tastes and price-points.

MSC Cruises claims to have the largest in-house retail operation of any cruise line. The division MSC Boutiques operates 120 boutiques across the fleet and deals with 150 suppliers. “Being in-house allows us to operate in complete sync with the onboard hotel team,” said Pittaway.

World Class, due in 2022, is the first in a new class of ships, according to MSC Cruises

The boutique team work across the globe – China, the USA, South America, South Africa and Europe – allowing for adaptation to nationality needs and developing a bespoke retail offer via team feedback and long-lasting partnerships.

“With ten further ships planned, including the incredible World Class [the first, due in 2022], we will triple the size of MSC Boutiques in the next 10 years – always offering a personal and memorable shopping experience,” said Pittaway.