If they weren’t already, the world’s cruise lines are sitting up and taking serious notice of how fast the Australian cruise market is growing, with MSC Cruises the latest line appearing to be ready to dip its toes back into local waters.
Sydney Port listings are currently showing the 2,550-passenger MSC Magnifica booked in for a one-night, two day stay at Athol Buoy (near Taronga Zoo), arriving on 23 January 2018 and departing in the evening of the following day.
Cruise Advice has sought, and received, verification from the NSW Port Authority that MSC Cruises did indeed place the booking in October 2015. However, when queried about this and the associated voyage, MSC Cruises played mum and declined to confirm it was returning to Australian waters., instead saying this ship will be in South America during the period in question. It is possible that MSC Magnifica may not be the exact ship which comes to Australia – cruise lines regularly book ports but change the ship from time to time – but the booking is clearly in place.
According to the MSC website, Magnifica is embarking on a 16-night Grand Voyage as it repositions from Europe down to Brazil in November 2017. Past this date, cruises are not currently available until March 2018 and the ship’s return journey from South America back to Europe. It is rare, but not unheard of, for a ship to cross the Pacific to Australia from South America. A look at cruise schedules for December 2017 & January 2018 shows MSC Poesia, MSC Musica and MSC Preziosa all sailing in the continent over this period. Voyages are also listed for MSC Magnifica, which appears to be operating week-long cruises from Sao Paulo, however this could indicate another of the MSC fleet will take the booking in Sydney.
Regardless of which ship actually turns up, it will not be the first time MSC Cruises has been to Australia. In March 2015, MSC Orchestra journeyed on an MSC Grand Voyage from Dubai to Perth, via the Australian east coast which saw it stop in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide before concluding the voyage in the WA capital. The reason for its visit was in order to facilitate a private charter from Perth back to Rome.
It can’t be long before MSC sends at least one ship to Australia either on at least a seasonal basis. No cruise brand in the world has as extensive an order book as the Geneva-based line, with eleven new ships in the pipeline starting with the MSC Meraviglia (due in May 2017) and its three sisters; MSC Seaside (due November 2017) and its two sisters; and of course not to forget the four MSC World Class ships, which will each cater to over 5,000 passengers and will be progressively delivered through to 2026. With so much capacity coming online over the next decade, to ignore the world’s second fastest growing cruise market in Australia (behind China) could be fairly labelled as defying explanation.
MSC delivers a very polished European style of big-ship cruising, with Australians one of its largest and most important long-haul markets. So all things considered, you can make up your own mind on whether 23 January 2018 marks the brand’s return to Sydney Harbour.