Connected retail to attract shoppers on MSC Cruises

By Luke Barras-hill |

MSC Magnifica is due to recommence sailings in the East Mediterranean from 29 August. Source: MSC Rights.

MSC Cruises has shared more detail on its retail restart plans as MSC Grandiosa arrives today (21 August) at the Port of Valletta in Malta.

In an exclusive interview with TRBusiness, MSC Cruises’ Head of Retail Adrian Pittaway made clear that the number one priority is delivering ‘safe and reassuring retailing onboard’ through product handling, and working closely with brand partners to reassure shoppers.

He said: “As part of the first initiatives, we are enhancing our product warranties and after-sales service to make sure that guests are provided with as much benefit as possible.

“As for both retailer and brand we are determined to ensure we can continue the positive end-to-end brand experiences that are such an important part of cruise retailing.

Adrian Pittaway, Head of Retail, MSC Cruises: “On cruise ships ‘people buy people’. We don’t think this philosophy will change significantly. It will be amplified now as one of the key pillars of success in the ‘new normal’ trading environment.”

‘BRINGING SHOPPING ALIVE’

“The next initiative will be to improve our digital communication; using our smart ship technology we are able to provide more inspiration, brand advocation and experiential content for our guests to discover.

“Onboard MSC Grandiosa we have worked with all our brand partners to ensure that all our shops have a connected environment.

“Using initiatives such as virtual events, mobile communication, in-cabin TV, open decks and seminars we are able to bring shopping alive onboard in so many new ways. Social distancing gives us as a new opportunity to innovate.”

MSC Cruises is reviving itineraries in the East and West Mediterranean this month after receiving approvals from the relevant authorities.

Having set set sail from the Port of Genoa, Italy on 16 August, MSC Grandiosa is offering seven-night cruises in the Western Mediterranean calling at Valletta, Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples and Palermo.

MSC Magnifica will return to the seas on 29 August with voyages in the East Mediterranean.

The ship will offer seven-night cruises departing from Bari and Trieste and calling at the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus.

The Geneva-headquartered privately held cruise company is initially accepting guests that are residents of Schengen countries only, while itineraries have been shaped around accessibility to the ports served by the vessels.

All other trips in the Mediterranean have been cancelled from 16-31 August, while US-departing trips have been restricted up to and including the 31 October as per a recent CLIA advisory.

MSC Cruises’ vessels will only return to service once necessary approvals have been received from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other relevant authorities.

Far East cruises from 10 September through to and including 26 October have also been cancelled.

EXPERIENTIAL RETAIL ‘MUST ADAPT’

As reported,  the cruise line has created a ‘best-in-class’ retailing framework devised in collaboration with the Duty Free World Council, with retail-specific advice from Aspen Medical Consulting. MSC Cruises is also drawing on safe product care guidelines from its brand partners.

New and innovative technology will ensure appropriate social distancing and safety measures, while delivering arresting digital communications.

Meanwhile, the event programme has been reinvented, alongside stock-handling processes and the service experience. In addition, crew shopping facilities and product ranges have been enhanced.

MSC Grandiosa re-entered service on 16 August and MSC Magnifica is set to return on 29 August.

“We are using new remote communication and learning techniques to train our retail team in a way which we have never done before – it is very exciting,” explains Pittaway.

Initially, MSC Cruises will concentrate promotions on clearing older unsold inventory that has remained onboard while offering merchandise at usual competitive prices.

“There will be fewer cluster events,” clarified Pittaway. “However, we believe the key to success will be on delivering warm, friendly and personal service to those interested shoppers who want to shop.

“On cruise ships ‘people buy people’, and we don’t think this philosophy will change significantly, it will be amplified now as one of the key pillars of success in the ‘new normal’ trading environment.

“We believe that there will be fewer ‘window shoppers’ in our stores, but a greater focus for us will be on those ‘interested shoppers’. Feedback from other parts of travel retail indicates to us that guests who want to shop will still shop, and that we are seeing increased average spend from this changed trend.”

While Pittaway acknowledges that experiential retailing will remain a ‘cornerstone’ of cruise retailing for the time being, he says it will need to adapt significantly in a changed environment affected by the coronavirus (Covid-19).

Beauty area onboard MSC Grandiosa. MSC Cruises is utilising new remote communication and learning techniques to train its retail team.

“Our retail ambassadors, brand specialists and retail infrastructure will all play their part in delivering different types of virtual content,” he continued.

“Live streaming to guests across the ship, limited entry invitations, private shopping and cabin delivery are all ways that we will use to continue to engage with our guests in a positive, proactive and relevant way once onboard MSC.

“The chance for us to think differently allows us to test and try new ideas that maybe before we didn’t think were necessary, but now can allow us to once again show how versatile and exciting cruise retail can be.”

FIRST SAILING AT VALLETTA PORT

Valletta Cruise Port, operated by Global Ports Holding (GPH), today (21 August) hosts its first international cruise sailing since March when it welcomes the return of MSC Grandiosa.

Emre Sayin, CEO of Global Ports Holding Plc said: “For a company like ours, which handles thousands of cruise calls in a normal year, one call does not seem so significant.

“But this call is an important milestone because it is the first international cruise call to one of the 19 cruise ports we operate since the whole world locked down as a result of the pandemic. I also find it comforting that the measures go beyond anything we have seen so far:  Everyone involved in the journey is tested either in the ship or in the port.

Valletta Port is hosting MSC Grandiosa on Friday 21 August. The port has been open since 1 July, but no cruise ships have called since March. Source: Global Ports Holdings.

“This will give cruise-goers and local communities ease of mind.  As GPH, we are ready to host cruise guests, adopting protocols which have been accredited with the ‘Safe Travel’ stamp by the World Travel and Tourism council. The GPH ports already accredited are Barcelona, Malaga, Antigua, Kusadasi, Bodrum, Zadar and of course Valletta.”

GPH, which invests in or manages 21 ports across 13 countries, has implemented the same high standards of health and safety in concert with its cruise line partners and local authorities.

WATERTIGHT SAFETY PROTOCOL

As mentioned, MSC Cruises has developed a comprehensive health and safety protocol to protect guests and crew while instilling confidence for guests on voyages. [click below to watch video].

Revealed last month by MSC Cruises’ CEO Gianni Onorato, the protocol has been developed using expert advice from in-house teams in the fields of medical services, public health and sanitation, hotels, shipboard engineering systems and information technology, among others.

In addition, MSC Cruises has created a Covid expert group gathering highly qualified and internationally renowned professionals to assess and review ongoing initiatives.

The protocol is said to go beyond regional and national guidelines and meets European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) guidance, which incorporates additional health standards such as those from the EU Healthy Gateways Joint Action.

Prior to embarkation, guests be required to undergo several health screening steps, including a temperature check, health questionnaire and Covid-19 antigen swab test.

A secondary health screening and follow-up molecular test could take place depending on the results. Boarding will be denied for those who test positive or display Covid-19 symptoms.

Those guests travelling from countries categorised as high-risk will be required to take a molecular RT-PCR test within 72 hours of boarding, in line with European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control guidelines.

All crew will be tested twice, will enter a 14-day isolation period and undertake a third and final molecular RT-PCR test before boarding.

They will be regularly tested during their contracts – at least twice per month – in addition to ongoing health monitoring.

MSC Grandiosa will operate with a maximum 70% occupancy rate, allowing for 10sq m of space between passengers and protected excursions offshore will operate to protect communities served by the ports.

Click to enlarge. Source: MSC Cruises.

Onboard hospital-grade disinfectants are being used together with UV-C light technology to kill almost 100% of microbes.

The protocols will also support MSC Cruises’ winter restart schedules, with 14 ships sailing from 31 October.

Guests can also take advantage of an MSC Covid-19 Protection plan covering infection prior to their departure if they are not able to travel, during the cruise for medical expenses, and after the cruise if the guest falls sick.

For more comment from MSC Cruises, watch out for the forthcoming September print edition of TRBusiness.

Video courtesy of MSC Cruises Official/Youtube.

 

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