CAISSA Touristic Group MSC Cruises today reaffirmed the strength of their recently announced strategic partnership at a joint press conference in Beijing, highlighting changes coming to the MSC Lirica when she comes to China in 2016.
CAISSA Touristic’s President Chen Xiaobing emphasized the popularity of MSC Cruises.
“MSC Cruises’ distinctive European flavor resonates well with CAISSA Touristic’s brand spirit, which also originates from Europe,” said Xiaobing. “Additionally, 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 onboard staff to ensure guests receive the best-in-class MSC Cruises’ experience and service, 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 Chief Executive Officer Gianni Onorato added that MSC Cruises’ private ownership gives the company a clear edge in China.
“Everything on an MSC Cruises’ ship – from the hospitality, cuisine and staffing, to the ship’s interiors – is designed and controlled in-house, with meticulous attention to quality and detail, the way only a family-owned company can,” said Onorato. “This means we can customize every aspect of our offering – right down to a new Cruise Ambassador role we have created just for MSC Lirica – to meet the needs of consumers in the markets we serve.”
Onorato added: “We’re customizing MSC Lirica by drawing on the unrivaled local knowledge of our partner, CAISSA Touristic. In addition, MSC Lirica is the perfect size to enable guests to get the very most out of this customization, which means she brings to the market a cruise product, specifically designed to meet the needs of Chinese consumers, that is truly like no other.”
Onorato presented various innovations for the Chinese market, particularly in onboard dining, entertainment and guest service, which will guarantee Chinese guests experience a unique offering that’s tailored to their tastes, from boarding to disembarkation.
 Guests will encounter exquisite oriental and international cuisine throughout the ship, created by celebrity Chinese chef Jereme Leung, said MSC. A household name in China and revered by Far Eastern gourmets worldwide, Chef Leung will create a unique oriental fusion restaurant called Jia Yao, offering diverse, freshly-made specialities from around China, including his trademark “hot pot” and a roster of other signature dishes.
Additionally, to further strengthen the authenticity of the dining experience, Chef Leung will provide MSC Lirica’s chefs with specialized training in the traditional cooking methods that are his trademark, while front-of-house staff will also undergo specific Jereme Leung training around 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.”
MSC Cruises and CAISSA Touristic have built a round-the-clock program of live music and dance shows, fun activities, leisure and games to appeal to a variety of guests.
Daytime schedules will be packed with a range of entertainment and social options, including activities for children, adults and families, plus five distinct kids clubs for all age groups. In addition, parents can join their kids in the exhilarating open-air spray 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 favorites such as arts and crafts, European history and culture lectures, language classes, yoga, tai-chi and fitness sessions.

At the press conference, Onorato commented: “MSC Lirica’s guests will enjoy a new personal service previously unseen in the industry. Under a unique new staffing structure we’re introducing here for the first time, specially recruited and trained Cruise Ambassadors, will be assigned to specific guests during their cruise.”
He explained that this service has been created to meet every need of guests onboard 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.
Additionally, MSC Lirica will be staffed by an industry-leading ratio of Mandarin-speaking personnel, with as many as 80 percent in some departments.
Other highlights revealed include a large, varied casino with Chinese favorites and classics, plus a private baccarat and sic bo room. And an extensive range of boutiques carrying leading high-end European brands, including but not limited to, Gucci, Bulgari, Longines and Tag Heuer.