The Hollywood legend officially named the cruise ship in Dubai on Saturday 27 November
MSC Cruises chose Dubai to host the ceremony in recognition of its long-term commitment to the UAE and the wider Middle East market where it is the brand leader.
The event, held at Port Rashid, in partnership with Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism and DP World, reflects the growing importance of Dubai as a cruise destination and reinforces the importance of the cruise industry’s contribution to tourism in the UAE.
A long-standing maritime tradition, the official naming ceremony of the ship took place in the presence of the Master of the Vessel, Captain Francesco Veniero and local dignitaries.
UAE TV personality Omar Butti took to the stage as master of ceremonies and then introduced Hollywood icon Sophia Loren, who addressed the crowd in both English and Italian, before cutting the ribbon attached to the bottle, allowing it to break on the ship’s hull and complete the ship’s christening.
Singer-songwriter Rag’n’Bone Man then performed his hits, before the star-studded evening culminated in a firework display and a gala dinner aboard the ship.
Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, said: “We’re honoured to host this maritime tradition ceremony in the United Arab Emirates during its Golden Jubilee year and with it, to mark our longstanding and long-term commitment to this region. This is also why this winter MSC Virtuosa, one of the most technologically and environmentally advanced ships in our fleet, will homeport in the country as part of our deployment in the Gulf region.
“Cruising is an integral part of the UAE’s dynamic tourism industry, and thanks to our uniquely global distribution network we will continue to promote the country and the Middle East all around the world as an attractive holiday option to support the further growth of the tourism industry locally.”
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, group chairman and CEO of DP World, added: “It’s a proud moment for us to host the MSC Virtuosa naming ceremony at Mina Rashid. The port’s state-of-the-art facilities, passenger handling capacity and strategic location have helped us win several significant accolades, the recent being The Middle East’s Leading Cruise Port Award at The World Travel Awards 2021, received for the 14th consecutive year.
“To ensure that the port continues to be an integral contributor to the UAE’s economy and a significant economic pillar of Dubai, we are working to enhance its capabilities. We will strive to ensure that the emirate continues to gain recognition globally as a world-class cruise destination.
“We’re also expecting a total of 126 ship calls and over 500,000 cruise visitors for the upcoming 2021/22 cruise season. This will further bolster Dubai’s tourism figures and drive our progress.”
His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, also commented on the significance of the naming ceremony, saying: “Dubai’s reputation as a cruise hub continues to grow in stature, and iconic moments and milestone events such as these reflect the crucial contribution of cruising to the city’s tourism industry. With Dubai continuing to welcome international tourists, this event will build on the momentum generated by the recent launch of the new cruise season, further fuelling growth during this landmark year for Dubai featuring Expo 2020 and celebrations surrounding the UAE Golden Jubilee, and beyond.”
MSC Virtuosa can carry up to 6,334 passengers and 1,704 crew. The ship stands 19 decks tall and has 10 restaurants, 21 bars and lounges, including MSC Starship Club staffed by the world’s first futuristic humanoid robotic bartender called Rob.
With a 945-seat theatre, a spa, barber shop, hair salon, gym, kids’ clubs, games arcade, water park and five swimming pools, there’s plenty to enjoy. The ship’s defining design feature is its 112-metre promenade with a LED sky dome at the social heart of the ship.
Equipped with some of the latest marine technologies available, MSC Virtuosa is also one of the world’s most environmentally advanced cruise ships, in line with MSC Cruises’ ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Following the naming ceremony, MSC Virtuosa departed on 28 November from Dubai for her maiden Gulf voyage. The ship will serve Arabian Sea itineraries throughout the winter season from her Dubai base. Destinations on the itinerary include Abu Dhabi and Sir Bani Yas Island in the UAE, and Doha in Qatar.
MSC Virtuosa will serve the Arabian Sea until March 2022.