MSC Cruises’ fleet expansion reached a number of significant milestones over the weekend, with a coin ceremony for the new MSC Virtuosa; the official naming ceremony for the line’s new flagship, the MSC Bellissima; and the launch of a new chef partnership for the cruise line.
The festivities kicked off with the official delivery of the MSC Bellissima at Chantiers de l’Alantique in Saint-Nazaire. Three Meraviglia generation ships had been under construction simultaneously at the shipyard, including the MSC Virtuosa, which celebrated its coin ceremony – a nautical tradition that takes place when the keel is laid – on the same day as the delivery of the Bellissima.
Next up the MSC Bellissima sailed to Southampton, UK, where the ship celebrated its official naming ceremony. Gianluigi Aponte, MSC Group’s founder and executive chairman as well as the ship owner, attended with the Aponte and Aponte-Vago families. Famous actress Sophia Loren aced as the ship’s godmother.
During the ceremony MSC announced a new partnership with famous chef Raymond Blanc, OBE. The two-Michelin-starred chef has had a profound influence on Britain’s culinary landscape, MSC said, and marked the start of the partnership by designing a menu for naming ceremony for guests to enjoy at the Yacht Club Gala Dinner. As part of his collaboration with MSC, Blanc will create a dish for the Elegant Dinner menu.
Holly Willoughby, an English TV presenter and star of ITV, acted as the host for the naming celebration, with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and three-time Grammy Award-winner Nile Rodgers performing with his band, Chic. Other performances included a duet by Andrea and Matteo Bocelli, as well as a special performance from Cirque du Soleil at Sea.
Two new shows developed via the cruise line’s Cirque du Soleil partnership will be one of the highlights of the new MSC Bellissima as it spends its inaugural season in the Mediterranean, sailing seven-night cruises before moving to the Emirates for winter 2019 / 2020 and Asia later in 2020. Guests on the new flagship will also be able to enjoy the largest retail area in MSC’s fleet; 12 dining venues, including a new French specialty restaurant; kids’ activities and services from LEGO and Chicco with a dedicated family deck area; and a number of features aimed at boosting sustainability.
The MSC Virtuosa, meanwhile, is scheduled to be delivered in 2020, becoming the fourth Meraviglia-class ship in MSC Cruises’ fleet and the second of three expanded Meraviglia Plus ships. During the coin ceremony, two longstanding shipyard employees and the ship owner – Elise Guérin, project manager, Chantiers de l’Atlantique and Helen Huang, president, Greater China, MSC Cruises – acted as godmothers, placing two coins under the keel block as a sign of blessing and good fortune.