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Gianni Onorato, ceo MSC Cruises (left) with CAISSA Touristic president Chen Xiaobing in Beijing

MSC and CAISSA unveil customised cruise experiences for Lirica's China foray

MSC Lirica, the ship destined to operate year-round from Shanghai starting in May 2016, will include dining concepts from China's celebrity chef Jeremy Leung, 20-hour-a-day entertainment program, specially assigned social hosts, high-end European brand shops, as well a high density of Mandarin-speaking crew throughout.

MSC Cruises and China's CAISSA Touristic Group which announced their strategic cooperation last month, unveiled the details of MSC Lirica's on-board offering during a joint media conference in Beijing today.

CAISSA Touristic’s president Chen Xiaobing emphasized MSC Cruises’ distinctive European flavour remarking, 'it resonates well with CAISSA Touristic’s brand spirit, which also originates from Europe.'

He added, 'What makes this partnership stand out from other traditional agreements between China-based tour agencies and cruise lines is the emphasis that will be placed on the training of the entire on-board staff to ensure guests, as well as the degree of the adaptation of the ship’s hardware and software, such as facilities renovation, service design and operation, to fit the customs and tastes of the Chinese guests it is designed to serve.'
 
MSC Cruises ceo Gianni Onorato said, 'We’re customizing MSC Lirica by drawing on the unrivaled local knowledge of our partner, CAISSA Touristic' He called MSC Lirica 'the perfect size' to make the most of the customisation.

Onorato outlined features such as a partnership with Chinese chef Jereme Leung to create menus and dining concepts to complement the Mediterranean cuisine offering. A household name in China, Leung will create an Oriental fusion restaurant called Jia Yao, offering diverse, freshly-made specialities from around China, including his trademark 'hot pot' and other signature dishes.
 
Chef Leung will train MSC Lirica’s chefs in traditional cooking methods, while front-of-house staff will also undergo specific Leung training about the cuisine and clientele they will serve.
 
'We’re really excited about having Jereme Leung at our side in this venture,' said Onorato. 'He has a deep knowledge of Asian cuisines that extends well beyond China’s borders, which is why he’s also instrumental in the development and delivery of other onboard menus and dining concepts, including the Kaito sushi restaurant; the 20-hour-a-day Chinese and international buffet and La Bussola, which will serve dishes from across Asia and around the world, plus a Chinese tea bar.'
 
The Ippocampo restaurant will offer private dining for groups and families.
 
On the entertainment side there will be a 20-hour-a-day program of activities and shows for groups, families, children and couples.
 
Daytime schedules will be packed with entertainment and social options, including activities for children, adults and families, and five distinct kids clubs will cater to all age groups. In addition, parents can join their kids in the open-air water park, or watch from the shady comfort of a lounge chair under one of the ship’s newly installed sun canopies. Daytime activities will include arts and crafts, European history and culture lectures, language classes, yoga, tai-chi and fitness sessions.  
 
Evening stage shows will focus on live music, dancers, illusionists and cabaret artists. The theatre will offer three nightly sittings with magic shows, a professional tenor, full dance troupes and variety artists. Passengers also can attend a choice of themed evenings, such as Hollywood Night, Italian Night or Rock Star Night, or participate in diversions like Dancing With the Stars and Karaoke Superstar.
 
Specially recruited and trained Cruise Ambassadors will be assigned to specific guests during their cruise in what Onorato called a first for the industry.
 
He explained that this service has been created to meet every need of guests on board MSC Lirica, and to ensure they fully benefit from the entire range of relaxation, discovery and entertainment options. To make every cruise completely stress-free, these professionals will chaperone their guests at all key moments, acting as social host, fixer, guide and information point as required.
 
The Cruise Ambassadors, who will speak Mandarin as well as English, will provide round-the-clock access to information and assistance whenever they want it. These trained professionals will be fully informed of all onboard amenities, services and experiences, as well as the ports of call.
 
One example of the ‘extra-mile’ services they will provide is handling guests’ restaurant, entertainment or shore excursion bookings. Then, if guests wish, their Cruise Ambassador can join the group for dinner, a show or shore excursion.
 
'It’s bold innovations like the introduction of Cruise Ambassadors that we believe will really make the difference to our Chinese guests, and keep them coming back to MSC Lirica,' Onorato said.
 
The ship will employ Mandarin-speaking personnel throughout, with as many as 80% in some departments. Staff will be recruited and trained through Chinese schools of excellence, while managers will also undergo on-the-job training aboard other MSC Cruises ships.
 
Further highlights revealed include a large, varied casino with Chinese favorites and classics, a private baccarat and sic bo room plus an extensive range of boutiques carrying leading high-end European brands such as Gucci, Bulgari, Longines and Tag Heuer.
 
MSC Lirica arrives in China next year after a 60-day grand voyage from Rio de Janeiro via Barcelona, Marseille, Genoa and Dubai. She will then begin sailing mostly three- and four-day itineraries, calling South Korea and Japan, although longer options will be available.

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