MSC names new flagship in UK and announces partnership with Raymond Blanc
MSC Bellissima – the largest ship ever to be christened in the UK and the biggest vessel in the MSC fleet – was officially named in Southampton by Sophia Loren.
On the same day (March 2) the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line announced that it was continuing to forge its UK links with a new partnership with Raymond Blanc, the two Michelin star chef-patron of the renowned Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire.
The glittering ceremony in front of 2,500 guests – hosted by TV presenter Holly Willoughby and also starring Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo – was momentarily disrupted by Storm Freya when strong winds pounded the marquee in Southampton’s City Cruise Terminal. As a safety precaution everyone returned to the ship where the celebrations continued and Sophia Loren – who is ‘godmother’ of 14 MSC ships – cracked the traditional bottle of Champagne across the bow.
Earlier in the evening MSC’s Executive Chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago, said: “So many great ships are connected to this city and Southampton is a new home for us, a place where we want to build roots and put down ties.”
Italian-owned MSC specialises in relaxed Mediterranean-style cruising for adults and families and appeals to multi-national and multi-generational passengers. With the addition of MSC Bellissima it now has 16 vessels in its fleet.
MSC Bellissima, which translates as ‘most beautiful’, has 2,217 cabins and can carry up to 5,686 passengers who are looked after by 1,536 crew members.
It brings to the sea the latest advances in maritime design, state-of-the-art environmental features and cutting-edge customer-centric technology. Highlights include 12 dining venues and more than 20 bars and lounges, including a new French specialty restaurant L’Atelier Bistrot. The ship also features acclaimed pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury’s Chocolate & Café, dedicated entirely to unique and elegant chocolate creations and desserts and a delight for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Commenting on his new partnership with the line, Raymond Blanc said: “I am truly looking forward to collaborating with MSC Cruises on some exciting projects, including the development of one of my signature dishes for the Elegant Dinner menu. I believe we have a shared passion for the guest experience and together we will create some truly memorable moments for diners on board.”
MSC Bellissima is the second of the line’s Meraviglia-class ships and MSC is the only cruise company to feature Cirque du Soleil at Sea. The ship will debut two brand new Cirque du Soleil shows; the seafaring maritime tale Syma and medieval-themed Varelia, which will be exclusive to Bellissima passengers.
The ship also features the MSC Yacht Club, a self-contained luxurious ‘ship within a ship’ area spanning three decks with facilities including a private pool area and restaurant and round-the-clock butler service for every cabin.
Elsewhere, entertainment includes a virtual games deck with two F1 simulator cars and a dedicated family deck area and children’s activities provided by partners Lego and Chicco.
MSC Bellissima’s glamorous décor includes the line’s signature Swarovski staircases in both the Yacht Club and main atrium area. Since 2008 the staircases have, in the words of Pierfrancesco Vago, become a “symbol of sophistication” on board MSC ships. The newest ship doesn’t disappoint with 96 shimmering steps containing more than 61,000 crystals. The centrepiece of the ship is a 96-metre-long Mediterranean promenade with an LED ‘sky screen’ where different images are projected throughout the day and night.
MSC Bellissima is also equipped with cutting-edge guest technology. She is the first MSC vessel to feature Zoe, the world’s first virtual personal cruise assistant. The voice-enabled virtual personal assistant will be found in every cabin and can answer hundreds of questions about the cruise.
The ship is fitted with a large number of environmental features and innovative technology to reduce her environmental footprint. Like sister ship MSC Meraviglia, she is equipped with an exhaust gas cleaning system for cleaner emissions, an advanced wastewater treatment system, smart heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC) to recover heat from machinery spaces, and LED lighting and smart devices to significantly save energy.
MSC Bellissima has become the fourth ship to join MSC Cruises’ fleet in less than two years. As part of MSC Cruises’ unprecedented new builds programme, another 13 next-generation cruise ships are due to join its fleet by 2027. These include four World Class mega cruise ships capable of welcoming nearly 7,000 guests as well as four smaller ships that will serve the ultra-luxury segment.
MSC Bellissima will spend her inaugural season in the Mediterranean offering seven-night cruises to some of the region’s most popular ports before moving to the Emirates for winter 2019/2020. Following that she will be deployed in Asia in 2020.
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of Ivan Sarfatti