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MSC Cruises extends inclusive pricing 'experiences' to North America

Sasso - new pricing structure a 'win-win' for travelers and agents
MSC Cruises USA launched 'Inclusive Experiences,' a new pricing structure that enables passengers to choose a pricing tier based on their preferences and desired amenities. Already introduced in most of MSC's European markets, the experience pricing is being rolled out in North America after positive feedback from customers and travel agents abroad.

With the new pricing, travelers can choose from four categories—Bella, Fantastica, Aurea and MSC Yacht Club—that range from a la carte to all-inclusive amenities. MSC said the included experiences offered have a value up to $700 per person.

MSC Cruises USA president and ceo Rick Sasso painted the model as a 'win-win' for travelers and retailers.

'Our unique model means increased profitability for travel agents and improved customer satisfaction as guests have more opportunity to customize their vacation experience based on their own personal desires,' he said.

Sasso and Ken Muskat, evp sales, public relations and guest services, fleshed out the program in an agent webinar Thursday.

Bella, designed for value-conscious travelers, offers the best price. It gives the option to add additional on-board services, such as beverage or spa packages, a la carte. The Bella experience is available for customers booking interior, ocean-view or balcony staterooms.

Fantastica—also available with interior, ocean-view or balcony bookings—gives additional flexibility and options, such as the ability to choose a premium location stateroom and priority choice of early or late dining. Additional benefits include 50% off all fitness classes and personal training, free room service delivery and enhanced recreational activities for children including cooking and foreign language classes.

As a special promotion, travelers booking the Fantastica experience for sailings of seven nights or longer on MSC Divina between Oct. 18 and April 11 will also receive a beverage package.

The premium Aurea experience, for balcony stateroom and suite bookings, bundles in the premium choice of these accommodations and dining in the main restaurant with 'My Choice Dining' flexible times. Additional benefits are priority boarding, a beverage package consisting of unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, a spa package with a massage and private spa consultation, access to the adults-only Top 18 sun deck and all the perks associated with the Fantastica experience.

MSC Yacht Club, the elite choice, for travelers who book the line's ship-within-a-ship VIP club experience, provides keycard access, priority check-in/check-out, butler service, a dedicated 24-hour concierge, exclusive Top Sail lounge and pool; 24/7 free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages available within the Yacht Club area and a private MSC Yacht Club restaurant.

Travel agents will receive full commission on the Inclusive experiences booked by their clients. In addition, MSC Cruises USA will continue to pay 5% commission on any a la carte options, such as shore excursions, that are pre-booked and pre-paid by guests. 

Vicky Garcia, coo and co-owner of Cruise Planners-American Express, praised the inclusive pricing model as 'great to help grow agent profitability.' Garcia, who also sits on the MSC Cruises USA Advisory Board, added that MSC’s simplified categories will offer the opportunity to earn more commission by upselling pre-paid services.

Adding value rather than using discounts is exemplified in other recent cruise line programs such as Celebrity’s '123-go!' and Norwegian Cruise Line's 'All-Inclusive' package. Garcia said for clients, there is 'the flexibility to add value into the price, while still maintaining an excellent value and experience.'

MSC's new pricing will be available for reservations starting Sept. 23 for cruises Oct. 18 forward.

Travelers who have already booked an interior, ocean-view or B1 or B2 level balcony stateroom will automatically receive the Fantastica experience, excluding the promotional drink package offer. Those who have already booked a B3 level balcony stateroom or Aurea suite will automatically receive the Aurea experience.