MSC Cruises Builds on Cirque du Soleil Partnership with New Entertainment Options

by Kerry Tice
MSC Cruises Builds on Cirque du Soleil Partnership with New Entertainment Options

“Varelia – Love in Full Colour” is one of eight Cirque du Soleil shows coming to MSC Cruises' ships. Photo: MSC.


As more cruise lines continue to seek out unique entertainment opportunities that wow their audiences, and gain them a greater share of the passenger pie, one is going where no other has gone before.

MSC Cruises has announced it will continue its partnership with Cirque du Soleil, which began in 2013, by debuting two completely new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows for its guests on its newest flagship, the MSC Bellissima, when it comes online in March 2019. These live entertainment shows have been created exclusively for MSC Cruises and cannot be seen anywhere else in the world – not to mention at sea.

And while tickets to the shows are an upcharge on the sailings, all pre-booked ticket sales are commissionable at five percent to travel advisors, who are encouraged to book their clients early, as theaters tend to sell out way in advance of sailings. Guests can be booked to enjoy a three-course meal prior to the show (€35) or a cocktail and pre-show (€15) 30 minutes prior to the start of the performance.

New choices across multiple new ships
The first two shows for Bellissima, entitled “SYMA – Sail Beyond Imagination” and “Varelia – Love in Full Colour,” are just the beginning of a total of eight original shows that will be unveiled on MSC’s Meraviglia-generation ships, three of which are coming online between now and 2020.

MSC Meraviglia was the first ship to debut the new Cirque du Soleil at Sea concept, with the launch of the two shows, “Viaggio” and “Sonor,” last June. Work is underway to create additional shows for MSC Grandiosa, which will launch in November 2019; and MSC Virtuosa, which will launch in October 2020.

MSC Cruises Cirque du Soleil New Shows
The show posters for MSC's newest Cirque du Soleil at Sea productions. Photo: MSC.

Each ship will host two distinct shows that will run twice a day for six days of the itinerary, specifically for that ship, giving guests one more incentive to return to a sister ship.

“It is really quite incredible that we will develop together eight original shows, two for each of the initial four Meraviglia-class ships,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ executive chairman. “Every element of the show is unique, from the concept and the storyline, the characters, the costumes and makeup through to the music, staging and sound effects.”

Designed with Cirque in mind
All of the ships’ Carousel Lounges have been specially designed to accommodate the needs of the Cirque at Sea artists and provide an immersive and intimate experience for MSC guests. These purpose-built entertainment venues, at an investment of €20 million each, hold just over 400 guests each and feature state-of-the-art technology and high-specification technical features such as a 360° rotating stage set in the middle of the lounge for a maximum viewing experience.

The theater has also been strategically positioned at the aft of the ship on deck 7, offering picturesque views of the ocean whilst at sea. Guests will be able to dine or enjoy cocktails in the lounge prior to the commencement of the 40-minute show in the evening.

MSC Cruises Cirque du Soleil
The specially-designed theatre on board has a rotating stage. Photo: MSC

Travel Market Report recently had the opportunity to tour the Montreal headquarters of Cirque du Soleil alongside MSC executives and get an inside look at this creative powerhouse that has been producing world-renowned shows since 1984, and has since taken on the task of developing this innovative concept at sea.

Originally composed of just 20 street performers, Cirque has completely reinvented circus arts, becoming a world leader in live entertainment. Performers range from acrobats and clowns to dancers, roller skaters and jugglers, to name just a few. But it’s the unique storytelling, approach, costumes, makeup and music that, together, make these performances worth seeing. Every bit of what is created for these shows is developed inhouse by Cirque. The Montreal headquarters alone houses 1,500 employees, all of whom take intense pride in producing a stellar product that is completely proprietary.

For MSC executives, who were searching for the most innovative way to bring entertainment to its international audience – one that could transcend language and cultural barriers – there seemed to be no better collaboration.

“The partnership with Cirque du Soleil is truly special. With the creation of Cirque du Soleil at Sea, we wanted to bring our guests the very best in onboard live entertainment, and more importantly, something that they would not be able to see anywhere else in the world,” said Vago.

For Cirque du Soleil Chief Executive Producer Yasmine Khalil, who is also president of the company’s events and special projects division, 45 DEGREES, the partnership has been a creative challenge, but one they were happy to take on.

“We could not have wished for a better partnership where, thanks to the purposely built theatre, the Carousel Lounge, our teams can unleash their creativity and continue to push the boundaries of entertainment at sea.”

The Cirque artists for the new shows have now been cast and are currently training at Cirque headquarters. They will soon leave to board MSC Bellissima, where final preparations will be underway. A total of 16 performers will rotate roles every six months in the two distinct shows available on each sailing, allowing passengers to enjoy these skilled performers in very different storylines.

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