MSC notes increase in regional guests


MSC World Europa has set sail after being docked in Doha, Qatar for over a month to serve as a floating hotel during FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The world’s largest LNG-powered vessel at sea is now doing 7-night, 8-day itineraries in the Arabian Gulf before heading off on a 22-night grand voyage at the end of March to the Mediterranean Sea.

We spoke to Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, for more insight into MSC’s Arabian sailings.

“MSC Cruises welcomes guests from all over the world with more than 180 different nationalities sailing with us. This year we have seen a significant increase in guests from different Arab countries thanks to the increase in our offer - three ships in the region as well as an expansion of MSC representatives and travel partners in this part of the world.

“The Middle East will continue to be an important region for us, not only in terms of bringing international guests to discover this incredible part of the world, but we will also look to increase the number of Arabic guests sailing with us from GCC countries and Saudi Arabia”
– Gianni Onorato


“We are the brand leader in the Middle East as well as Europe, South America and Southern Africa. We are the fastest-growing cruise brand also with a strong presence in the Caribbean, North America and the Far East markets.

“The Middle East will continue to be an important region for us not only in terms of bringing international guests to discover this incredible part of the world, but we will also look to increase the number of Arabic guests sailing with us from GCC countries and Saudi Arabia.



MSC sails to more than 200 destinations worldwide but tailor-makes its offering to the region where its ships sail.

“We pride ourselves on our ability to think global but act local so that we can tailor our entertainment, food and beverage, retail offering and more according to where the ships are deployed so that our guests can enjoy an international environment on our ships with many different cultures coming together whilst feeling at home. For example, we will create menus with local dishes, stock our shops and boutiques with brands that appeal to guests from that region. This then provides a unique experience for the guests from all around the world that sail on our ships.”

As an example, MSC Splendida offers a range of culinary options that accommodate travellers of all cultures. In respecting the local customs of the region and Saudi Arabia, all food is halal. Alcoholic beverages will be available to guests on board MSC Splendida during her winter season in the Red Sea. However, in abiding with Saudi law, said drinks will not be served during the stays in Saudi Arabian ports, Onorato informs us.

“The casinos will be fully shut during the cruise ship docking in Saudi Arabian ports and will be back in operation once in international waters.

“We also ensure that we have Arabic speaking crew on board in key departments and that menus and the daily programme are translated into Arabic.”



There have been significant changes in people’s views on how they want to travel now, with a rising urge for more environmentally friendly approaches. With sustainable tourism on the rise, the cruising industry will be an integral part of this progression.

Onorato says: “As you have seen with MSC World Europa, the world’s largest LNG-powered cruise ship, LNG is the cleanest marine fuel currently available at scale, a transitional fuel as we look ahead to source and use synthetic LNG or other alternative non-carbon fuels as soon as they become available at scale nearly eliminates air pollutant emissions, including sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and fine particles, and achieves a CO2 reduction of up to 25 per cent. LNG will also enable the development of low-carbon fuels and solutions such as green hydrogen, synthetic-LNG, and fuel cells. 

“We will continue to see technology advance in the future and we will continue to invest in future technologies. We are firmly committed to achieving our long-term goal of zero-impact cruise operations by 2050 and we are well advanced on this journey.”  



October has been the best month historically with 400,000 bookings for MSC, it was revealed in a press meet in Doha late last year. “We believe that this is due to the excellent value for money all-inclusive holiday proposition cruises represent at all times but especially at this juncture.

“We are seeing a strong demand with an extended horizon in the medium to longer term to such an extent that guests and travel agent partners are starting to close bookings now to avoid the frustration of not being able to find the perfect holiday option for themselves or their clients in a few months.

“The global travel and tourism industry is finally seeing its rebound in the post-pandemic era and the GCC is an important market for that. For example, our Egypt/Red Sea/Saudi Arabia itinerary has attracted travellers from the MENA region and all over the world.

“This region is home to cosmopolitan cities, exemplary hospitality, beautiful sceneries, and vibrant cultures. Travellers are looking forward to discovering new destinations with MSC and reexploring new ones within the region. For this season, we are seeing a significant number of bookings from Italy, the UK, and Germany to the GCC and wider Middle East,” he concludes.   



MSC Yacht Club

 The cost of a cruise in the Yacht Club is approximately double that of a standard balcony cabin aboard MSC Cruises, reveals Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises. “We are seeing increased demand with the MSC Yacht Club from all markets. The ‘ship within a ship’ concept sets a new standard for the industry with a premium cruise experience, by offering guests the benefits of a private club with exclusivity and private facilities such as a lounge, restaurant and sun deck, while providing the wealth of leisure and entertainment possibilities that a larger ship has to offer.”

Designed to make guests feel like a VIP, the MSC Yacht Club all-inclusive experience is fully personalised with a 24-hour butler with warm, friendly and unobtrusive service.

Meanwhile, the dedicated concierge is on-hand to facilitate any request from organising private shore excursions, making reservations for the spa through to arranging for the newspaper to be brought to the cabin each morning.