MSC Cruises has announced the acquisition of Starlight Cruises, its sales agent in South Africa of almost 20 years. The new company will trade as MSC Starlight Cruises with effect from May 2011. The agreement gives MSC Cruises overall control of Starlight Cruises. It also allows for the continued management by former owners, the Foggitt family, who have operated as sales agents for cruise liners in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands for over 30 years.

MSC Cruises CEO Mr Pierfrancesco Vago welcomed the formalization of the company’s first office in sub-Saharan Africa. “This is an important acquisition that affirms the close relationship we’ve shared with Starlight Cruises. It also endorses our commitment to the future success of South Africa and continued growth of cruise tourism in the region,” said Mr Vago.

Mrs Daphne Osborne (nee Foggitt) who becomes Managing Director of MSC Starlight Cruises said the two companies had enjoyed an excellent business and personal ‘engagement’ for almost two decades. “It has been a marriage on the cards for years now, and in the wake of two successive record breaking seasons, and sure signs of a continuation of this trend, it would seem the time is right.” Mr Allan Foggitt remains Marketing Director of MSC Starlight Cruises. Mr Stefano Vigoriti, who has headed up MSC Cruises in South Africa until now, becomes Operations Manager for the new company.

The relationship between Starlight Cruises and the larger Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Group, the second largest container shipping company in the world, began soon after the company’s first venture into cruise shipping in the late 1980’s and subsequent deployment of the Achille Lauro and MSC Monterey to South Africa.

When MSC Cruises was established as a subsidiary of the MSC Group in 2003 after several years of unprecedented growth and a 5.5 billion euro investment programme, the popular cruise liners MSC Rhapsody and MSC Melody were added to the local line-up.

The deployment of the luxurious 2,100 passenger liner MSC Sinfonia to Southern Africa in 2009 proved a turning point for local cruising and established a new trend where cruising has become an increasingly popular vacation of choice for local holidaymakers. Referred to as the “finest floating hotel” ever to operate out of South Africa, MSC Sinfonia returned for a second bumper season in November 2010 when she operated in conjunction with MSC Melody.

Both MSC Sinfonia and MSC Melody return to South Africa later this year for the 2011/2012 summer cruise season which will again feature a full schedule of exciting cruise destinations in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans out of Durban and Cape Town.