With less than a year to go before launching the first of 11 new ships, MSC Cruises has announced changes at the top of its North American operation.
The Geneva-based cruise operator said it was moving veteran executive Rick Sasso to the role of chairman of MSC North America, a new position. His former job as president of MSC North America will be filled by Roberto Fusaro, who previously headed up the line’s operations in South America.
In an announcement Wednesday, MSC said the changes were effective immediately.
“As we grow globally, North America is naturally more and more a strategic market for MSC Cruises,” Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, said in a statement. “For this reason, we are thrilled to have Roberto take the leadership of MSC Cruises’ business in the region and work hand-in-hand with Rick to further our ability to capture the significant additional opportunities for growth that this market presents.”
The privately held company has 11 ships coming between June of next year and 2026, a $10.2 billion commitment. At the end of 2017, MSC will launch its new ship Seaside in Miami. It will join Divina, which has been sailing the Caribbean year-round from Miami since late last year.
Beyond Seaside, MSC hasn’t said how many of its new ships will be deployed to North America, but the company has worked for years to grow its presence in the world’s largest cruise market. The bulk of its ships are deployed in Europe.
“We’re anchoring ourselves here,” Sasso told Skift in June. “It’s no longer a transit post where you have a ship for six months a year and our real core is Europe. Now North America is becoming an anchor post.”
He said that MSC had started to expand its North American sales organization and base of travel agents two years earlier. The company has also been increasing its advertising spend in the market to increase awareness.
“Now we have the hardware that can allow us to be even more aggressive in these markets that have huge potential for us,” said Sasso, who has worked in the cruise industry for more than 40 years. He joined MSC in 2004.
Sasso’s duties as chairman were not spelled out in the announcement and he was not available for an interview Wednesday.
Fusaro, who joined MSC Cruises in 2005, reiterated the company’s commitment to the region in a statement.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to take on this new challenge and excited to work with Rick and the rest of the North American team as we look to further grow our business in the region and deliver a unique vacation experience to guests on board one of the most modern and elegant fleets at sea,” he said.