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MSC Cruises doubles up on Cuba as it eyes Caribbean opportunity
Aliya Ram

The company has said it will now send a second ship, the MSC Armonia, to
Cuba’s largest port after experiencing high levels of demand from
European customers.
“There was such a good response, especially — and this surprised us —
from many European markets,” said Gianni Onorato, chief executive of MSC
Cruises.
“The idea is to grow more and that’ll depend a lot on the level of
growth in the infrastructure that can receive the ships?.?.?.?our
commitment in Cuba we hope will encourage authorities to invest in ports.”
Mr Onorato said conversations with the Cuban authorities began in
January and plans for the second ship received a boost when Matteo
Renzi, Italy’s prime minister, visited the Caribbean island in October.
American liners are still subject to US restrictions that limit
to licensed volunteer programmes.
But as US-Cuban relations thaw following a truce between US President
Barack Obama and Raúl Castro last December, leisure industries are
rushing to take advantage of Cuba’s potential as a relatively untouched
destination.
Carnival, the world’s largest cruise company by market share, has
received approval from the US government to send a cruise liner to
Havana that combines social work and travel, but it has yet to receive
the go-ahead from Cuban authorities.
MSC Armonia is part of a €5.3bn plan by MSC Cruises to
increase its fleet by seven ships to a total of 19 by 2021 and refurbish
four older liners by 2021. According to the company new ships cost
between €700m-€1bn to build.
One of these will set sail for Shanghai where it will serve the
market, which Mr Onorato said will be part of MSC’s long-term strategy.
“Both China and the Caribbean represent the future,” he said.
MSC Opera and MSC Armonia can hold about 2,600 passengers each.

Source: MSC Cruises doubles up on Cuba as it eyes Caribbean opportunity
– FT.com –
www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f33cf96c-9911-11e5-95c7-d47aa298f769.html#axzz3tHAu4ruw

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