MSC Bellissima will become the biggest ship ever christened in the UK at an event next March

MSC Bellissima

Record breaker: MSC Bellissima

MSC Bellissima will become the biggest ship ever christened in the UK, it was announced tonight.

The 171,000-ton vessel, which carries up to 5,700 passengers, will be named during a ceremony in Southampton on March 2, 2019. The godmother for MSC Cruises ships is traditionally the 83-year-old Italian actress Sophia Loren.

More than 2,000 guests will be invited to the christening, a press conference at the Gherkin tower in London was told. The ship, currently being built in France, will remain in Southampton for three days to allow 3,000 travel agents and journalists to see its new features before it takes passengers on an inaugural voyage to Genoa.

Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, said: ‘We have chosen to host the christening of MSC Bellissima in Southampton as a demonstration of our continued commitment to growth in the UK and Ireland. This is a truly beautiful ship and this christening will be a truly beautiful moment for MSC Cruises and the UK.’

Promenade Deck 7_2

Stunning: The LED Sky Screen

Antonio Paradiso, the company’s MD for UK and Ireland, added: ‘MSC Cruises is going from strength to strength in the UK and Ireland, and the fact that such a high- profile event is being held here is a signal of the importance of the UK and Ireland to MSC Cruises. The inaugural voyage from Southampton to Genoa will allow our UK guests the opportunity to be the first to sail on this beautiful ship.’

Bellissima will feature two Cirque du Soleil shows, West End-style entertainment and an 80-metre-long LED Sky Screen first introduced on sister ship Meraviglia. Two new dining concepts are L’Atelier Bistrot and the modern, street food-inspired Market Street.

The ship will also see the debut of a voice-activation program to the onboard MSC For Me app, allowing guests to ask their smartphone, cabin TV or interactive screens for information in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Brazilian Portuguese and Mandarin.

Sanjay Dhawan, the president of developers Harman Connected Services, said: ‘Imagine getting instant and personalised information like cruise events, entertainment options, journey updates, or just playing your favourite music, by a simple voice command.’

MSC Cruises - a connected cruise experience

New tech: The MSC For Me app will understand voice commands

Bellissima will sail the Western Mediterranean during its inaugural season before moving to spend the winter in the United Arab Emirates, calling at Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Muscat and Khasab.

It will be the fourth MSC Cruises vessel to enter service in less than three years after Meraviglia last June, followed by Seaside in December. Seaside’s sister ship Seaview is due to make its debut this June.

Bellissima, which carries 4,490 passengers based on the industry standard of two people per cabin, will take the title of the biggest ship to be christened in the UK from previous record holder Anthem of the Seas, the Royal Caribbean ship named in Southampton in 2015, which measures 168,666 GRT and carries 4,180 passengers.

After Bellissima, Italian-founded, Swiss-based MSC Cruises has a further eight ships lined up. To see the complete order book, please click here.

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