Rick Sasso is a man with a vision. Perhaps it would be more precise to say the vision belongs to the Italian founder, owner and president of MSC Group, Gianluigi Aponte. This amazing family from Sorrento owns one of the largest cargo shipping businesses in the world. Their vision is to draw upon three hundred years of family sailing expertise to bring a new Mediterranean style of cruising to the US market, starting for now with the Caribbean.
So let’s say instead, Rick Sasso is a man with a mission. His mission, which he chose to accept in April of 2004, is to transform that amorphous, if grandiose, vision into a living, breathing reality. You have to admire the sheer audacity of the challenge. The US travel industry is just now crawling out of one of the deepest troughs anyone can remember. There are a number of well established cruise lines with instant brand recognition that have been plying the Caribbean Seas for more than a decade.
It takes two things to attempt this sort of breathtaking challenge: boat loads of money (literally, in this case) and the courage, cunning and quickness of a cat burglar. The Italian patriarch is presumably providing the cash and Rick the cojones. If you are privileged to hear him present his strategy in person, as I was a couple of weeks back, you will likely come away convinced that Rick will find a way to fulfill his mission. Two weeks ago, the Travel Leaders advisory board on which I serve conducted our most recent meeting in Miami at the JW Marriott Marquis to be continued on board the MSC Divina. We were special guests on a 36 hour cruise to Nassau before the ship headed to Brazil for the World Cup.
If you are unfamiliar with MSC Cruises, no need to berate yourself. To be honest, you share this rather embarrassing nescience with most of my counterparts in the travel industry, including me (Or, as they say in Italy, “me”. I’m also quite the linguist!). When this meeting was first announced, I was quite pleased because: 1) any sort of travel short of visiting Pyongyang beats the daylights out of performing actual work and 2) here was a great opportunity to fill in another hole in the sizable swiss cheese which is my cerebral cortex.
Getting back to business, I am going to share with you a quick overview of the MSC Divina under two rubrics: hardware and software: I am selecting this approach because we professional travel snobs foolishly imagine that we can impress you, the travel consumer, by sprinkling esoteric travel terms through our writing like peanut butter chips on a double scoop sundae.
By the term hardware, I mean the ship itself. (For why I didn’t just say ship, see paragraph above.) This is certainly one of MSC’s major points of differentiation. There is an old saw that says, since you won’t be spending all that much time in your cabin, getting an outside balcony is not that important. I don’t really subscribe to that theory. For one thing, if you get a nice cabin, you probably will spend more time there. Sitting out on the balcony for a morning cup of coffee or indulging in some late night star-gazing is a great way to start the mellowing out process. It’s your vacation. Live a little!
When you do venture out of your cabin, you want a cruise ship that offers variegated and interesting public areas to explore. The Divina has those in spades. My personal favorite haunt was La Cantina Di Bacco on deck seven. Late afternoon, when you need a little relaxation, I recommend you stop by, order a glass of vino and nibble on these little delicacies! If you can still remember what you found so annoying last week at work, you’re obviously making the amateur’s mistake of stopping after one glass.
Speaking of being annoyed, I am on a roll here and once again I find myself banging up against my self-imposed limitation on loquaciousness. I have barely touched upon hardware and we haven’t even gotten to software, firmware, dinnerware, or underwear (oops, sorry, that slipped in from another post.)
Come back soon and who knows what other mysteries I may unravel. In the meantime, take three short minutes and watch this moving video (it really is heart tugging) which captures the essence of the cruise line quite beautifully. You will see how these Masters of the Sea have infused the Caribbean experience with a Mediterranean flair.
Next time, I will take you by the hand (tell me you don’t have sweaty palms) and lead you to glorious new destinations, both inside the ship and without. Feel free to bring along a few friends. Just remind them to bring their passports!