Talking MSC Cruises

COO Ken Muskat offers short takes on everything from pandemic lessons to why MSC’s private island concept is so valuable

On MSC’s return amid the pandemic: “The whole industry shut down. Think about all the crew that represents, all the people who work in the terminals, all the check-in agents, all the office people—and everything it takes for this industry to operate. We went down to bare minimums because the ships weren’t operating.

“So, then it became, how do we restart? How do we focus on the safety standards? How do we make sure the ships are enhanced with technology that is going to help us get people back to cruising again? Everything shifted to that until we could start cruising again. And then we had to start building up the crews, and the office, and all the parts of the company that had lost jobs for so long.

“Luckily, MSC was the first major cruise line to restart international sailings, in August of 2020 [when Grandiosa departed from Genoa, Italy, for a seven-night voyage in the west Mediterranean]. So, we’ve been sailing for over a year-and-a-half now.”

On whether there were issues staffing up: “We pull crew from all over the world, like all cruise lines do. … Of course, you have to deal with governments and repatriation and who we can get back in time to sail. So, there were challenges. But as far as the desire of crew members to come back on board and work? It was plentiful. They couldn’t wait to get back.”

On the wisdom gleaned over the past two years: “Nobody would have ever expected a pandemic, or anything, to shut down the cruise industry for as long as it did. But we learned a lot. We learned how to deal with the governments. We learned how to have alternative plans in place.

“It’s made us better in the way that we work, in the people we hire, in the relationships that we’ve built with the ports and governments, the health and safety standards that we have, in the relationships we’ve built with medical professionals from all over the world that give us advice. And that’s not going to stop. Now, we take that to the next level, understanding that this kind of situation is a possibility, so that we’re prepared for whatever the future holds.”

On Ocean Cay, its private island: “With the return of cruising, private islands have become so important because you’re able to control the bubble environment that’s been needed during the restart. Ocean Cay is an extension of what we have on the ship.

“To be able to have that for all of our itineraries was key, especially at a moment where all other islands around the Caribbean were taking time going through protocols and figuring out when they were going to be comfortable reopening.

“Everything is controlled in our Ocean Cay environment. Even the Yacht Club guests have a dedicated Yacht Club experience on the island. It’s extremely close to Miami, so it’s very easy for us to have overnights and late-night stays at the island.”

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