MSC Cruises will christen a ship in the UK for the first time in more than a decade next year.
MSC Bellissima will be named in Southampton on March 2, 2019 with around 3,000 British and Irish agents invited across a three day celebration.
Antonio Paradiso, managing director UK and Ireland, said he believed the move would see the 5,700-guest Bellissima become the largest ship ever to be christened in the UK.
“The UK trade will play a massive role [in the christening celebrations],” he told TTG.
“It is such an opportunity for us and will be an eye-opener for agents for what MSC is all about. My goal is to become the number one international cruise line in this country, and bringing Bellissima here truly shows our commitment to, and faith in, the UK.”
The Meraviglia-class vessel will sail its maiden voyage from Southampton to Genoa two days later. The last MSC vessel to be named in the UK was MSC Poesia in Dover in 2008.
Bellissima will become MSC Cruises’ fourth mega-ship to come into service in less than three years since 2017 as part of a 12-ship, ten-year €10.5 billion investment programme.
MSC Cruises chief executive Gianni Onorato said the choice to christen Bellissima in the UK was “symbolic” and “a strong sign to all our trade partners about how serious we are about the UK”.
Next year will see MSC replace MSC Magnifica with the newer MSC Preziosa in Southampton, adding 740 more passengers at full capacity.
And MSC Meraviglia, which launched last June, will undertake its first Southampton-New York sailing in the autumn.
“We will be able to show three different ships with different itineraries to the UK trade, so I’m really excited and confident that our agents will embrace it,” Paradiso added.
MSC also revealed that Bellissima will debut an onboard “digital personal assistant” system for passengers, which Onorato said would take the line’s MSC For Me technology programme “to the next level”.
The “conversational, voice-enabled Artificial Intelligence innovation” will see a speaker beacon placed in each cabin, offering information such as weather updates and excursion timings and, with its next phase, provide guests with tailored suggestions including dinner reservations.
It has been developed by MSC and Samsung subsidiary Harman, responsible for a number of voice-enabled technology created for Amazon, Google and Microsoft, and will be available on all future new ships.
Plans are also in place to introduce the feature on the rest of MSC’s current fleet.