The boss of MSC Cruises said its decision to deploy the newest ship in its fleet out of Southampton this summer “proves how committed we are to the UK market”.
Describing the news that MSC Virtuosa will be operating round-UK sailings from May 20 for British guests as “a dream come true”, UK & Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso said: “It is great news. It just proves once again, how committed we are to the UK.
“In the past, people probably were thinking ‘Okay, this guy is making a lot of promises here’. But I did promise you the biggest launch of all time [Bellissima], and we delivered that. Now we’re bringing our newest flagship to the UK and that just shows the love and the commitment to this beautiful country.”
Paradiso added: “People were expecting a big ship, but nobody was expecting to see our new flagship in the UK. And the fact that we will accept both vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, as long as they take their test when they get to the terminal, has also gone down well.
“We have received some amazing comments and feedback from many, many families and customers out there.”
Paradiso said agents had also welcomed the news.
“To say that our agent partners were excited is an understatement. It’s been really, really encouraging. We can’t wait to start if I’m honest,” he said.
“We will go on sale on April 1. Many customers have already pre-registered and of course, we will start giving priority to our existing customers who previously booked on MSC Magnifica.
“We are contacting them right now because both the ship and the itineraries have changed. But we will give them generous options in order to move their booking to MSC Virtuosa. Of course, MSC Virtuosa is a completely different ship; it has many more cabins and categories and experiences. So it’s not going to be a like-for-like transfer.”
He added: “We did give our agents a few days’ notice to be prepared to receive this demand. Everybody wants to start selling cruises again, everybody wants to sail as soon as possible, so by far the positive reactions have exceeded any potential complaints or dissatisfaction.”
Paradiso concluded: “I’m so excited to see some lovely smiling faces again, because I genuinely believe after this nightmare we’ve been through, we all deserve a break. We all deserve to smile again.”