Welcome to my first post in a series that will span the next year looking at the construction, development, delivery and christening of MSC Bellissima in Southampton in 2019. I recently had the amazing opportunity to visit Chantiers de L’Atlantique shipyard in France to witness not one, but three key milestones in the construction of three of MSC’s new ships. This is the first time ever three cruise ships from the same line are being built at the same time within one yard.
It is a very exciting time for MSC Cruises. With a €11.6 billion investment plan, the fleet is set to expand from 15 to 25 mega-cruise ships by 2026. That’s staggering! This can only be done in partnership, and MSC have over the past 15 years developed a strong both with the Shipyard.
Let’s just quickly talk about the yard. I would be be totally lying if I said this wasn’t something I’ve always wanted to do. Ever since I went on my first cruise (many moons ago) I’ve had a fascination in how they are built and come to life. In fact the first ship I ever went on was built at Chantiers (Majesty of the Seas). So to be able to see the process up close was really incredible.
Steel cutting and Ship naming ceremony for MSC Virtuosa
We started the day visiting the steel cutting factory. This is where the sheets of steel are cut to shape at the very start of the construction process.
Here we watched as the first piece of steel was cut for the newest ship in the MSC fleet (which traditionally is in the shape of the ship). We learnt that this Ship will be called MSC Virtuosa, the third in the Meraviglia class of ships.
As with the whole day, this was an incredibly special moment, the start of a what will be one of the biggest ships in the world.
Coin ceremony for MSC Grandiosa
While the whole day was special in so many ways, I particularly love the coin ceremony because of the ritual and history behind it.
A seafaring tradition, this is where the keel (or bottom) of the ship starts to come together early on in its construction. Two newly minted commemorative coins are placed under a keel block, or in the mast. The coins are then welded to the keel or mast and become part of the cruise ship and act as a symbol of good luck.
Here the two chosen Godmothers of MSC Grandiosa, who work for MSC and the shipyard, laid two coins in the keel of the ship before they were sealed away. It was a really special and heartfelt moment.
MSC Grandiosa is the first in the Meraviglia-Plus class and is 20m longer than Meraviglisa/Bellissima (the picture below is of the Galleria Grandiosa which will be longer than her sisters).
Tour of MSC Bellissima
We visited MSC Bellissima and had a tour around the ship, which is roughly around 45% complete. It was honestly such a crazy and surreal experience to see a ship pretty-much empty!
We journeyed into the depths of the ship, making our way through bundles of cables and steel – as no venues exist yet. Despite this, you can clearly see and get a feel for how the ship is coming together and the skeleton that underpins the venues on the ship. Firstly we ventured to Galleria Bellissima, where you can see where the signature Swarovski staircases will be and the LED Galleria.
We then went to see cabins, or rather, where cabins will eventually be. These are just empty spaces at the moment but over the course of the next few months the pre-fabricated cabins will be installed on every deck.
Making our way further upstairs, we then saw the pool areas, which are coming together very quickly. Finally, we saw what will be an enhanced MSC Yacht Club for Bellissima.
Float out of MSC Bellissima
Our day in the shipyard culminated with the float-out of Bellissima. This is another truly unique moment where we made our way under the ship. I never thought I’d ever touch the propeller of a cruise ship!
During the event, attended by various MSC and Chantiers’ executives, as well as the French minister of the economy, the ship and relationship was celebrated. It was at this time that a fifth, LNG-powered Meraviglia class ship was also announced.
After the speeches we moved out of the dry-dock as executives turned the handle to allow the water into the dock. Here we saw the ship touch water for the first time, ahead of being floated out during the night. It was amazing to see the ship touch the water for the first time.
The lead up to Bellissima
MSC Bellissima will be Christened at a glamorous ceremony in Southampton on 2nd March 2019. The event will be attended by more than 2,000 guests. The ship will remain in the city for three days, giving the opportunity for over 3,000 UK & Irish travel partners and guests to experience the beautiful addition to the MSC Cruises fleet.
MSC Bellissima will also be the first ship to feature the industry’s first digital cruise personal assistant, Zoe, as a new feature of MSC for Me, the Company’s digital innovation programme. A bespoke device is being designed specifically for use in the cabins on board and will be available in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Brazilian Portuguese and Mandarin. This digital service will provide guests with a simple and stress-free way to find out information that traditionally is asked in person at the Guest Relations desk. This way the guest can find the information without having to leave their cabin.
A video highlighting this incredible day in St Nazaire can be seen here from my YouTube channel
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To learn more about MSC Cruises visit here.