MSC Cruises’ UK boss says the line is “very close” to fulfilling a long-term ambition to have a 10% share of the UK cruise market.

In late 2017, the line pledged to one-day sell one in every ten cruises taken by UK and become “a leading international player” within five years.

Antonio Paradiso, the line’s UK and Ireland managing director, said MSC currently has 7.9% of the market, but believes a lengthened MSC Magnifica would add a further 90,000 berths to the market in 2021.

Speaking on new Meraviglia-Plus class ship MSC Grandiosa in Southampton, Paradiso said: “I am really confident that by 2022, MSC will be the number one international cruise line in this country. We are getting very close to that.

“We’re are at about 7.9%, so we’re getting there. A big boost will be when MSC Magnifica will sail out of Southampton [in summer 2021].”

Southampton will be MSC Magnifica’s only embarkation port when it is based in the UK in summer 2021.

Paradiso said: “It is a great opportunity for the travel agents. [Magnifica] alone will boost our production by 90,000 passengers.”

The line also has plans to further bolster its growing sales team in 2020. Paradiso said he would recruit for a strategic account manager – a new role – early next year.

“The strategic account manager will help [head of retail] Andrea Stafford strengthen the relationship with all the head offices in the UK and some important key accounts,” he said.

Paradiso said the sales team expansion goes “hand in hand” with the growth the line was experiencing in the UK.

MSC launched MSC Bellissima earlier this year. MSC Grandiosa is 16 metres longer than the Meraviglia-class ship.

On Grandiosa, the line has exhibited an art collection on a ship for the first time, expanded its French bistrot L’Atelier Bistrot and launched two exclusive Cirque du Soleil shows onboard.

The line has welcomed around 4,200 UK agents across its fleet since the launch of MSC Bellissima in Southampton in March this year.

Ship visits would be arranged when MSC ships called in the UK and Ireland, said Paradiso, who added: “One thing we do very successfully is fam trips every year which are normally fly-and-cruise out of Barcelona or Rome which allow agents to spend time onboard.

“The ex-UK sailings represent a good portion of our business. However, the Mediterranean is still the number one destination for the UK market.

“It is important that agents get to experience the ships that we have in the Med.”

From 2023, the line will launch four 64,000-ton luxury vessels which have yet to be named. Paradiso said the name would be announced between March and April next year.

“The first step would be to announce the brand,” he said. “We will disclose a bit more information about the luxury ships that we are building. The UK will be one of the first countries in the world to go on sale.”