A new cruise terminal in Southampton will enable MSC Cruises to offer cruises exclusively for customers from the UK & Ireland and Saturday departures for the first time.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Antonio Paradiso explained that the new facility meant MSC would have access to a greater number of more desirable slots, giving it the opportunity to offer more choice to travel agents and customers.

“We will have more ships serving the UK market and visiting the UK as a destination,” he said. “2021 will be officially the first time in our history where Southampton will be the homeport. So it will be the only port of embarkation on those itineraries.

“I’m excited because we’re not sharing the ship with any other countries, so it will be a ship fully committed to the UK and Ireland.”

To date, MSC has only been able to offer Monday and Thursday departures from the UK, but the new facility will allow it to offer Saturday embarkation and sailings from next year.

Paradiso said: “We were struggling sometimes to find the right slots which would have been fit for our itineraries. So by having access to a brand new terminal, we will have the opportunity to have most of the sailings starting on a Saturday, which is a more convenient day to board the ship.

“In the past, it used to be either a Monday or a Thursday, which was alright, but it wasn’t fit for purpose. But now we can be more flexible with our itineraries and it will allow people to just take five days off of work for a one-week cruise from Southampton.”

Paradiso also explained the new terminal would allow it to host larger ships, including ‘next-generation’ vessels.

“We have different prototypes of ships coming. Every ship is larger and wider and coming with more technology so by having a new infrastructure in Southampton and a new terminal of that size will enable us to host these new ships,” he said.

“The new terminal will come with a full pack of a green credentials, including having shore power connectivity installed in the network, which goes hand in hand with the technology we are using on our future ships.”

Paradiso said that current searches and booking trends showed that cruising from the UK, as opposed to boarding a plane to the Mediterranean to join a cruise, was looking very popular.

“I can tell you, because I’m checking my booking trends every day, that people are really keen on booking a cruise from Southampton and sailing from the UK. So this is absolutely the right time to invest in a new terminal, and to invest in a full season out of the UK,” he said.

Paradiso said MSC had listened to customer feedback.

“Customers have told us for years now that they want a ship based in Southampton and more itineraries. We’ve never done that before because we have more capacity than any other cruise line in Europe and so have always said that if Brits want to enjoy the sun, they can board a plane, fly to Barcelona, Genoa, Venice, or wherever, and cruise on one of our many ships based in the Med,” he said.

“But I realised that there were customers who weren’t particularly keen on doing that, so I wanted to make the Med more accessible from the UK. So we have two beautiful 14-nighters (to southern Europe) one visiting some beautiful destinations in Spain, Portugal and in France, and another itinerary going to the Canary Islands, in addition to quite a wide variety of sailings to the Norwegian fjords and Northern European destinations.”