The port of Southampton received a massive economic boost this week with the announcement that a major cruise company is returning to the city after a three-year absence.
Switzerland’s MSC will base one of their ships – the 95,000-tonne Magnifica which carries more than 2,500 passengers – in Southampton from April, 2018.
Planned cruises from Southampton will include voyages to the Norwegian fjords, a round-Britain cruise with stops at Edinburgh and Newcastle, and sailings to Spain and Portugal.
MSC pulled out of Southampton last year to concentrate on Mediterranean cruises.
However, this year its ships did call at Southampton on six occasions.
The company also has plans to have further one-off operations in Southampton in 2017 with Meraviglia, the company’s 4,500-passenger “mega ship”, set to call in June, and Preziosia, set to make a one-off sailing from the port in the autumn.
Antonio Paradiso, managing director of MSC Cruises for the UK & Ireland, announced the return to Southampton the while on board one of the Magnifica sister ships, MSC Fantasia, in Barcelona.
He said: “This marks a new dedication to the UK market as we look to be one of the most popular cruise lines in the country.”
Alastair Welch, ABP director, of Southampton Port, was positive about the news.
“This is a vote of confidence in the Port of Southampton and means we are able to offer further choice for UK passengers,” he said.
Each cruise ship turnaround is estimated to be worth between £1m and £2m to the area’s economy.
Adam Coulter, editor of the cruise reviews and planning site Cruise Critic, said: “MSC Cruises’ return to Southampton following a three-year absence demonstrates a commitment to the UK market. This is positive news for Southampton, and for travellers based in the local area.’’ “For travellers, being able to sail from a regional port like Southampton offers a convenient holiday option, enabling them to visit beautiful overseas destinations without having to step foot in an airport – and MSC’s return will present more choice to do so.
“For Southampton, having another cruise ship home-ported there will likely bring more people to the city to start, or finish their cruise, with some travellers possibly choosing to spend a night or two before or after their trip.”
Magnifica, which is currently based in Buenos Aires for the winter, operates regular summer voyages around the Med.
MSC is the world’s fourth largest cruise company behind Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines with a fleet of 12 ships, with plans for a further 11. It has a 5.2 per cent market share and employs 16,500 people.