MONFALCONE, Italy — MSC Cruises showed off the unfinished structure of its MSC Seaside last week, asserting it will restore a connection to the sea that has increasing been lost as cruise ships have grown bigger.
The vessel is 10 months from delivery, and as media from throughout Europe and the Americas tramped through it, more than 2,500 workers from the Fincantieri shipyard and its contractors were welding, hammering, threading cables, putting up insulation and doing other tasks needed to turn bare steel into a cruise ship ready for passengers.
On a gloomy winter day in northern Italy, Gianni Onorato, the CEO of Geneva-based MSC, radiated a sunny confidence that the Seaside was the ship that would reset MSC’s fortunes in North America and elsewhere.
“2017 will be an important year for us,” Onorato said, as the ships that were first commissioned after he assumed his job in 2013 finally come into service.
The Seaside’s design is a departure in several ways, but perhaps the most important change is a broad promenade on Deck 8 that will bring many top-deck activities down to a level that will be, if not even with the water, a lot closer to it.
Onorato said that the Seaside will be the largest ship ever built at Fincantieri, with 19 decks and capacity for 4,176 passengers at double occupancy.
If Seaside were designed as other big ships are now, most passengers would miss the essence of what a cruise is about, Onorato said.
“We are trying to connect the guest with the sea like we have never done in the past,” he said.
Plans call for an uncovered promenade more than 20 feet wide to wrap around the aft of the ship and continue to its middle, where a curved glass catwalk will connect it to an equally broad promenade to the bow.
As in the design of recent Norwegian Cruise Line ships, there will be restaurants and bars with an indoor/outdoor setup.
But on the Seaside, the fitness center and spa will also connect to the outdoors, permitting classes and spa treatments in the open air.
Maurizio Cergol, Fincantieri’s senior chief designer, said, “In huge vessels nowadays, the passengers see the sea just from the top, far away from the marine environment. By bringing this place lower, you allow people to fit better in the environment and also to compare a sort of connection between the inside volume of the vessel and the outside.”
The main Lido deck buffet will be on Deck 8, rather than topside.
As in the design of Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista, also built at Fincantieri, there will be an aft pool at the promenade level. But the deck surrounding it will be more expansive.
The staterooms at the aft have been pushed forward to create an open volume of space that will give the Seaside a different profile than other ships of its size. Cergol said the vessel’s aft mimics the look of a Miami Beach condo. There will be two express elevators that speed passengers only between the aft pool and the top deck, another innovation.
The top deck itself will also look much cleaner and less cluttered than the current fashion. There will be a waterpark and slides, but for the most part the top deck is flat, open space.
The ship will have outdoor deck space that’s equivalent of 110 basketball courts, Cergol said.
Also contributing to the Seaside’s distinct look is the relocation of the engine room to the middle of the ship from the aft, bringing the single funnel forward.
The lifeboats on the Seaside are tucked under the Deck 8 promenade, both hiding them and bringing them closer to the water for practical evacuation.
Other innovations include a food court-like area with five connected alternative restaurants, an MSC Yacht Club luxury area that spans five decks, a full-size bowling alley and balconies with offset terraces for extra room.
Onarato also detailed extensive plans to bring high-tech communications to MSC, with devices and systems similar to those on Royal Caribbean International and soon coming to Princess Cruises.
After the tour, several VIPs said they were excited about the Seaside.
“It’s a ‘wow’ ship,” said Juan M. Kuryla, director of PortMiami, where Seaside will homeport starting Dec. 21.
“We couldn’t be more honored for MSC to have chosen Miami to deploy such a beautiful ship,” said Kuryla, who has budgeted $40 million for a renovation of the port’s Terminal F as a dedicated space for MSC.
“I think it will draw a lot of families, and the price will be right for families,” said Nancy Bogert, a top producer for Cruise Planners in Williamsport, Pa.
“I’ve got a lot of people on it in January, and I’ll be interested to hear what they’ve got to say,” she said.
-originally published in Travel Weekly News by /
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