MSC Virtuosa – christened in Dubai at the weekend – will return to Southampton next summer to sail to destinations including Norway, the Baltics and the Mediterranean.
For the second year, it will replace MSC Magnifica, which was due to sail the season from the UK. At least one ship will be based at the new Horizon terminal throughout 2022, MSC Cruises announced.
Virtuosa, which was the first ship to restart cruising from English ports in May this year, will offer 20 sailings ranging from two-night mini cruises to Guernsey up to 14 nights exploring the western Med.
MSC Cruises has not yet identified the ship that will sail from the UK in the winter 2022/23 season, but it will visit Northern Europe on similar itineraries to the ones Magnifica is currently sailing.
Antonio Paradiso, managing director for MSC Cruises UK & Ireland, said: ‘We had such an amazing response to sailing MSC Virtuosa from Southampton this summer that we couldn’t turn down the opportunity to bring this popular ship back to UK shores, but this time with a variety of new and exciting itineraries.
‘Despite the challenges of 2021 we had a record-breaking year with passengers sailing from the UK and it was great to see so many new-to-cruise guests amongst them. We have listened to the feedback from consumers and travel agents and have delivered itineraries with more choice, new destinations and longer cruises to warmer climates – all departing from Southampton.’
The news came as MSC Cruises announced that all its 19 ships will be back in service by the middle of next year, offering nearly 500 departures to destinations from the Med to the Caribbean.
All itineraries are now only available to vaccinated guests, a condition that will continue into summer 2022.
MSC Virtuosa sailings will include a three-day long-weekend cruise to Rotterdam; three itineraries to Baltic capitals including Oslo, Tallinn and St Petersburg during May, July and September; four Norwegian fjord departures including new stops at Måløy and Olden; and two 14-night journeys to the Med on July 16 and 30.
The ship was christened in Dubai on Saturday by godmother Sofia Loren. I was among the 800 invited guests who enjoyed a fireworks display and a performance by Rag’n’Bone Man before heading back to the ship for a celebration dinner.