MSC Bellissima offers plenty of fun and frolics for all the family, as a TTG journalist discovers on a sailing with her two young sons
I can pinpoint the exact moment I realise MSC Bellissima is a ship designed with fun at its core. My family are cheering on an action-packed sailors versus pirates parade through the heart of the ship, led by a 7ft Lego man and the kids’ club mascot, Doremi. Euro pop is pumping out and the parade is in full swing, with crew waving flags and kids in fancy dress having a pretend battle to decide who is champion of the seas.
The crowd is already in high spirits when the Macarena starts playing, and everyone leaps into a mass dance-off. Welcome to Bellissima – the party-loving, family-friendly and unabashedly fun ship from MSC Cruises.
I’m onboard with my husband, Dan, and our sons, six-year-old George and two-year-old Harry, on a week-long October half-term sailing around the Mediterranean.
The first thing anyone notices about Bellissima is its size – it’s gigantic. When it launched in March, at 315m long and with a maximum capacity of 5,686 guests, it was the sixth biggest ship in the world. It was bumped down a place following the launch of sister ship MSC Grandiosa on 9 November.
For families, a key location is Doremi Land, which has more than 700 square metres of space for children. The baby and kids’ clubs have been designed with toy manufacturers Lego and Chicco. Teens have a tech area, filled with games consoles, VR headsets and gigantic touchscreens. First, George and Harry race into the Mini Club, which is packed with Duplo. Next up is the Junior Club, a cheerful Lego kingdom with construction walls and tables with bricks. Parents are welcome too, and we join in a family building session.
Then they’re off to the Doremi Lab tech classroom to use a 3D printer, watch and make films in the kids’ cinema and play games in the Sportplex indoor court.
“We’re incredibly proud of the design of Doremi Land. It’s a really big space, the ages
are divided very well and the kids are always so excited when they walk in,” explains youth staff manager Luisa D’Ambrosca. “It’s very digitally focused, as even the youngest children are
now asking about tech. When we show them everything they can’t wait to try it all out.”
Smarter: Get families’ fly-cruises off to a stress-free start with airport accommodation and parking. We booked the Sheraton Skyline Hotel London Heathrow with Holiday Extras, which makes an early flight with young children much easier.
Better: The handy MSC for Me app doesn’t require a Wi-Fi package and is very user-friendly, enabling passengers to check their bill or daily schedule and message other guests.
Fairer: Bellissima has a raft of features to reduce its environmental footprint, including an exhaust-gas cleaning system for cleaner emissions and an advanced wastewater treatment system.
Our next stop is the top deck Arizona Aqua Park. The boys scream with joy when they spot the gigantic overhead tipping buckets, water cannons and twisting slides. There are plenty of Grand Canyon-esque touches, including rubbery slides shaped like cacti, which our boys hurl themselves over. For those who prefer a more sedate dip there are three regular pools, nine hot tubs and loungers are always available.
Bellissima is the perfect ship for customers who like to be busy, with activities and performances around the clock, and even children’s activities run late into the night. Most are free, but it’s worth paying to see the two new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows exclusive to Bellissima. Suggest the £14pp show and cocktail tickets to families, as the seats are closest to the rotating stage.
We watch the brilliant Varelia: the story of a purple-skinned princess and a blind hero. The costumes, music, lighting and stage design are mesmerising and the acts incredible. At one point an artist juggles while riding a unicycle on a tightrope. George loves the circus tricks with spinning cubes, diabolos and light sticks.
Bellissima means “very beautiful” in Italian, and it’s fitting, as the ship boasts plenty of glitz and glamour, including six staircases filled with Swarovski crystals. These lead to the Galleria Bellissima, a two-deck promenade under an LED-domed ceiling, with ever-changing imagery.
The Galleria is home to shops including the Jean-Philippe Chocolat & Cafe where chocolatiers create goodies in an open kitchen. The boys are thrilled to use touchscreens to design personalised chocolate bars, adding marshmallows, Oreos and brownies.
Food is a key selling point. There are 12 dining venues, including the huge four-sided Marketplace Buffet, which is open 20 hours a day. Guests are allocated one of the four main restaurants each evening, but our favourite meal comes courtesy of the speciality restaurant HOLA! Tapas Bar, where everything is absurdly delicious.
At the end of each day we flop back into our cabin. There are 2,217 of them, and ours is one of the 1,418 with a balcony, with ample storage space for a family. Passengers will also find a bonus visitor in their cabins, courtesy of Zoe, a smart speaker that speaks seven languages, and responds to questions when we say “OK Zoe”.
Digital innovation is a central tenet of the design. Guests can find the rest of their party with locator wristbands, and interactive screens are dotted around the ship. On our final day we browse a screen looking for one last activity, and in unison the boys both chant: “Lego!”
BOOK IT: A seven-night cruise on MSC Bellissima departing from Dubai and visiting Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, Bahrain and Doha, starts from £1,476. The price is based on two adults and two children sharing on a cruise-only basis, departing 1 February 2020.
Seasickness: A large ship is a good option for those worried about feeling seasick. Most of the time passengers barely feel movement on Bellissima.
Wi-Fi: The onboard Wi-Fi is very fast. Suggest the premium package for families, costing £69 in advance and allowing 5GB of data across four devices.
Drinks packages: The range of drinks packages offer good value for money and are cheaper if bought before sailing. There are 20 bars and lounges.
Dining: While the Marketplace Buffet gets busy, there’s a quiet family area at the front.
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MSC Cruises is the world's largest privately-owned cruise company. We're the number one cruise line in Europe and South America.