January 27, 2014
The line says the decision was prompted by planned refurbishments for UK-based MSC Opera, rendering it out of action for the first half of summer 2015.
However, UK managing director Giles Hawke said he was not ruling out a return to the UK in 2016. He told Cruise Critic: "Ex-UK remains desirable. It's the second biggest cruise market in the world, but we need to think of the whole fleet and all the ships worldwide."
He added: "We are focusing on our Mediterranean programme next year and it was an operational decision not to bring the ship back to the UK. By the time the refurb is complete it will be half-way through the summer season."
The refurbishments are part of a planned program, which will see its Lirica-class ships -- which includes Opera -- lengthened and refurbished.
Rumours about MSC pulling out of the UK next year started with a blog post by Captain Greybeard. However they were strongly denied at the time by the newly-installed managing director Giles Hawke.
An official statement from the company said: “We have no plans to implement any changes to ex-UK cruises.”
MSC has tried hard to gain a foothold in the UK, running a large number of special offers including cheap regional flights to get to Southampton, kids go free, deep discounts and free parking. MSC is putting an extra ship -- MSC Magnifica -- into Southampton for a month in September.
The line's move follows a gradual retrenchment by a number of non-UK cruise lines, including Carnival, which has pulled out of Europe completely this year; and Princess and Royal Caribbean which will also sail fewer ships in Europe this summer.
--by Adam Coulter, UK Editor