You would think that the acquisition of 10 cruise ships in less than seven years - at a cost of $7 billion - would be enough.
Photo courtesy of Tambako the Jaguar
That's not how things operate at MSC Cruises.
"There will be more," said Rick Sasso, president & CEO of the private-owned Italian line MSC Cruises (USA). "We're going to need more ships to explore the world before us."
That world will likely include at least one ship year-round in the United States and another on the West coast. The Mexican Riviera and Alaska ... Italian-style?
"We already have the design plans for the next two (ships) after Magnifica (in 2010),' says Sasso. " We're just waiting for a slot; the shipyards are very busy with all the brands building new ships."
MSC brings one of its newbuilds to the United States every November before heading back to Europe in the spring. But MSC Poesia, currently based out of Ft. Lauderdale doing 3-, 5- and 8-day cruises, will return in September 2010 for a series of Fall Foliage voyages out of New York - with stops in Boston and Quebec - in an effort to make the brand more recognizable.
Long-term plans call for three to five ships in the United States. But MSC will have to battle the brand image of companies like Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean, cruise lines that have more than a 30-year head start.
"Even Celebrity, which is only 20 years old ... they have brand awareness," says Sasso. "We don't, because we're small in the market. But as we do New York ... bring more ships earlier ... as people become more aware of our brand, it will allow us more confidence to put more ships here, even year round."
Sasso believes that the opportunity to try something different will sell in this part of the world.
"There's a benefit to cruising on a European ship in the Caribbean," he said. "You have European ambiances; an extra little style about it. It's not American, but we cater to Americans."