The refurbished MSC Lirica will be homeported in Shanghai from 1 May 2016, initially for a 2-year period. MSC Cruises will operate joint partnership with CAISSA Touristic company (China), which has been running domestic voyages for many years. CAISSA also partners with Royal Caribbean, Costa and Princess Cruises.
According to MSC CEO Gianni Onorato, the line had learned a lot from the initial foray in North America, and would adjust its practices. A criticisms aimed at MSC Divina (homeported in Miami in 2015) was that her ambiance and crew were 'too Italian'. That means they didn't have the service standards expected by North Americans and many didn't speak fluent English.
Onorato said that for MSC Lirica they would be recruiting 30% Chinese-speaking crew, opening and developing company's training center in the Philippines.
The Lirica ship is currently being lengthened and refurbed as part of MSC's EUR 200 million (over USD 225 million) Renaissance Programme. Her extra length will increase capacity from 1,445 to 2,600 passengers.
MSC Lirica will also boast features specifically created for Chinese cruise market including signage in Mandarin, different color scheme, upmarket shops, Chinese food and entertainment. The vessel will sail to China in May 2016 after a 60-night Grand Voyage, with travelers able to embark in Genoa, Dubai or Rio de Janeiro.
MSC Cruises is between the lines which have announced recent expansion into China. The list includes Princess, Carnival and most recently NCL (Norwegian Cruise Line), which returns to Asia for the 1st time in 13 years.