T-shirt temperatures prevail when the “MSC Virtuosa” is christened at the cruise terminal in Dubai: While Germany experiences the first few nights with frost and snowfall, a warm breeze of 26 degrees Celsius blows in Dubai in the evening. A stage has been set up in front of the huge white ship wall of the 331-meter-long mega-liner from MSC Cruises.
Arabic chill-out sounds join the 600 invited guests, many men have appeared in their traditional white Dishdasha and the women are wrapped in black robes without a veil. A drone buzzes over the scene, and the Airbus A380s taking off for their night flights fly incessantly over the stern on the horizon.
Shortly before the 50th anniversary of the existence of the United Arab Emirates, Geneva-based MSC Cruises is having its 19th cruise ship christened in Dubai, the “MSC Virtuosa”, “our youngest baby and new flagship”, as Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of the Shipping company explains. Sophia Loren will cut the ribbon on which the champagne bottle is hanging, as she has done so often before.
On November 18, the film actress – most recently she played the Holocaust survivor and former prostitute Madame Rosa in the Netflix film “You Have Life Before You” (2020) – had another ship in the MSC fleet on Ocean Cay in the Bahamas baptized. The family-owned shipping company is relying on massive growth in the middle of the pandemic and wants to put four more new ships into service by 2025, some of them powered by liquefied natural gas. Then the shipping company, according to its own information, will be the second largest cruise company in the world in terms of passenger capacity.
Unlike the US market leaders, who are publicly traded companies, MSC is still owned by the Italian Aponte family. The cruise line is part of the MSC Group, which the patriarch and captain Gianluigi Aponte founded with just one cargo ship in 1970.
This Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is now active in 155 countries with 617 ships and more than 100,000 employees in the global container business and benefits enormously from the rapidly increasing freight rates in the worldwide movement of goods.
The “MSC Virtuosa” is identical in construction to the sister ship “MSC Grandiosa”, which Sophia Loren christened in November 2019 in the Port of Hamburg, but has been refined in many details such as the design and, for example, the elevator technology. With a capacity of 6334 passengers, both are among the largest cruise ships in the world.
At the moment, the shipping company, on whose ships the 2Gplus rule for guests and crew will apply in all shipping areas from December 4th, only operates with a maximum load of 70 percent due to the pandemic. But the reality is far below. The recent spread of new virus variants is causing bookings to collapse.
“Mamma mia” were the first two words of the 87-year-old film diva when she was led on stage by Captain Saverio Veniero on Saturday evening. First in fluent Italian and later in English, Sophia Loren wished the “MSC Virtuosa” a happy journey at all times.
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