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MSC Cruises’ Patrick Pourbaix explains why the French love cruising

PHOTO: MSC CRUISES CRUISE_Patrick_pourbaix.jpg
MSC Cruises' French gm Patrick Pourbaix
‘More than ever, value for money remains our key asset,' remarked Patrick Pourbaix, general manager of MSC Cruises in France in a one-to-one interview with Seatrade Cruise News.

‘Today, flights, resorts, even campsites are expensive and so for the French, cruising as an alternative choice for family holidays is a real option due to its unbeatable value,’ he said.

MSC Croisières experienced a record 2023 in volume, carrying close to 300,000 French passengers and in 2024 Pourbaix anticipates an 8-10% growth in numbers.

Family affair

Expanded family activities and services, including a care service for babies as young as six months in partnership with Chicco, new family-centric game shows and extended club hours for kids aged 12 to 17, as well as more summer departures from French ports and improved customer experience are some of the initiatives he points to in order to maintain MSC Cruises’ leading brand position in the French source market.

‘We have hired here a French collaborator to analyse the guest experience across the entire trip from our website and call center, to reservation, boarding, staff on board.’ As part of its French touch concept, MSC has hired more French-speaking staff, mainly in the entertainment area and Kid's Club. this was trailled in 2022 and is now onboard MSC Grandiosa.

Big ship cruising

Over 90% of bookings for summer months have been sold and whilst the summer Olympics being hosted in Paris or international geopolitical situations may explain some last minute bookings, Pourbaix believes the French market’s perception of big ship cruising has changed and ‘guests understand they offer a total freedom and are a place of chosen conviviality.’

He reminded, ‘MSC World Europa, the largest of our 22 ships, scores the highest satisfaction rates.’

The Mediterranean is the most popular choice for MSC’s French cruisers with sailings from south of France and fly-cruises from Athens most successful. Six ships – four from Marseille and two from Cannes - depart from France every week - in fact one a day, Pourbaix points out, except on Tuesdays. The company will operate over 200 calls in Marseille this year.