Italian Liners Raise U.S. Profile

CHICAGO The little cruise line from Genoa, Italy, won’t be little much longer.

Plans were revealed Tuesday for the seven-ship fleet of MSC Cruises to add a new vessel every year through 2009 and to kick off its “Beautiful. Passionate. Italian” campaign featuring actress Sophia Loren.

The Italian icon will appear in a $4 million campaign, via IC Comm in New York, beginning this month in print and on billboards, subway signage and taxi toppers in South Florida and New York.

Loren already is the godmother of the MSC Lirica, which will sail from its home port of New York by 2007, and will christen the 2,550-passenger MSC Musica in Venice, Italy, during June. That ship is one of two new arrivals this year; MSC Orchestra is the other.

The cruise line also will take delivery of the MSC Fantasia and MSC Serenata, each of which can accommodate 3,300 passengers, in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

“The new slogan is ideally suited for MSC Cruises,” Richard Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA, said in a statement. “It is a cruising experience that is, indeed, ‘Beautiful. Passionate. Italian.’ ”

MSC’s Italian positioning pits it squarely against Carnival Corp.’s Costa Cruises, which advertises “Cruising Italian Style.” MSC has been a minor North American player with a three-ship fleet in 2002, including one vessel operating from Florida during the winter.