Ken Muskat

Ken Muskat

EVP & Chief Operating Officer
MSC Cruises (USA)

Please describe your position and role in the cruise industry.

My position at MSC Cruises is EVP & Chief Operating Officer. I am responsible for all commercial elements of the business in the US including Sales, Marketing, Revenue, Hotel Operations, PR and Contact Centers. Besides my day to day role at MSC Cruises, I also consider my role to be an ambassador for the trade distribution constantly thinking about how to support our travel advisors and drive more business to their agencies.

How long have you been in the cruise industry and what other roles/positions have you held?

I have now been in the cruise industry for 24 years. I held a variety of roles at Royal Caribbean International for 18 years including Hotel Operations, Product Development & Marketing, Strategic Planning and Sales. I had a tremendous opportunity to serve as CEO of a Chinese cruise brand based in Shanghai which was a joint venture between Royal Caribbean and Ctrip.com for two years. Prior to moving to China, I worked for MSC Cruises as the brand began a tremendous effort to grow in North America. I am fortunate to have this opportunity to return to MSC Cruises in an expanded role and continue leading the brand through tremendous growth for years to come.

Would your younger self have seen you working in the cruise industry one day?

While it was never a “plan”, I don’t think my younger self would have been surprised. I still remember my first cruise on Sovereign of the Seas when I was 16 years old. It was a great experience where I made friends with people from all over the US and I even still remember who the Cruise Director was. It clearly remained an incredible memory and probably drove much of why I applied for my first job with Royal Caribbean.

Name a “highlight” in your career.

Definitely my opportunity to live and work in China for two-years. While I accepted the role to advance my career, it surprisingly ended up teaching me a great deal about myself and what one can accomplish when you stick to your plan and manage through situations that are way outside your comfort zone. What I was able to accomplish professionally and personally through this experience is something I will never forget. I continue to speak to every audience I can about the value of a semester abroad during College or a work abroad opportunity and how it will change your life for the better.

Looking forward, what are some predictions for the future in your sector of the cruise industry?

The industry continues to experience tremendous growth and it is not slowing down. A small percent of the US population has taken a cruise and millions more express interest in taking a cruise vacation. So the demand is there and as a result, the various cruise brands will continue to build bigger, better and more innovative hardware as well as find new and exciting destinations to visit. MSC Cruises alone currently represents 25% of the newbuilds on order through 2027. In addition, the building of private destinations such as Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve which opens this November or even new terminals such as the one MSC Cruises just revealed in PortMiami has the industry thinking much more about the full picture versus just new ships. I predict the industry will continue to flourish finding new to cruise guests who will require the expertise of Travel Advisors to navigate through the many options.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an Executive Partner wanting to make the most out of their CLIA membership?

I would advise that Executive Partners fully leverage all that CLIA has to offer including trainings, ship tours, conferences, facts about the industry found on the website and the unique ability to visit with cruise industry executives at events. In addition, I would advise that members share these opportunities with their peers who may not know all that CLIA has to offer. CLIA arms members with the knowledge they need to become an expert on the industry, including everything from the importance of Environmental Sustainability to the latest technology to help members do their job better. Make sure Cruising.org is your friend and is used as a key source of information which in return will increase your sales.