Ship Review: MSC Bellissima

Bigger, better and more advanced than any MSC cruise ship that has come before her, MSC Bellissima is also the largest and newest cruise ship ever to cruise roundtrip from Dubai.

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MSC Bellissima is the fourth ship to be delivered of a 13-ship order by MSC valued at more than 11-billion euros with the final delivery due in 2026. She is a sister ship to MSC Meraviglia and entered service in 2019, homeporting in Dubai for the winter cruise season later in the year.

The 13-ship order by MSC Cruises is part of its Vista Project, which aims to capture a greater share of the North American cruise market, and global cruise market in general. MSC Cruises is currently the largest independent cruise line in the world, and the fourth largest after the ‘Big Three’ cruise corporations (Carnival, Royal and NCL).

Atmosphere Pool aboard MSC Bellissima

With the arrival of MSC Bellissima then, the Middle East cruise market will get something very special – a brand new cruise ship on-par with the latest launches from those three lines, such as the Vista class from Carnival, the new Spectrum of the Seas from Royal, and Norwegian Bliss and Encore from NCL.

At 167,600-gross tons, MSC Bellissima rivals the Quantum-class for size and MSC have pulled out all the stops with innovative entertainment and dining options on offer. Her 4,500 passengers can enjoy a Cirque du Soleil show exclusive to the cruise line, as well as wearable technology and a digital assistant akin to Siri or Alexa for shore excursion reservations, dinner reservations and theatre bookings.

Deck plans for MSC Bellissima feature “cluster cabins” for families, that allow up to three rooms to be interlinked and with the wearable technology guests will not only be able to access their cabins and make onboard payments and bookings, but also locate their kids using the bracelet, onboard card or smartphone.

So no matter which of the three children’s entertainment centres your kids are in (toddlers, kids, teens) or anywhere else on the ship, you’ll always know where they are.

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The ship also features a huge outdoor water park, connected to a 2-deck amusement park, and a vast aft lounge that doubles as the entertainment and evening dance venue.

This is one of a half dozen lounges and bars aboard the ship. The Aft Pool on Deck 16 is an amphitheater-type space with tiered seating surrounding it in a semi-circle; at night its transformed into a dance space.

There’s also an interior promenade styled like a Mediterranean village. This area houses bars, specialty restaurants and shops, and is covered by a 5,167 sqft (480 sqm) LED dome ceiling called “digital sky”.

The central promenade entertainment complex aboard MSC Bellissima

And, of course, she has a huge MSC Yacht Club area, a “ship within a ship” with separate restaurants, duplex suites, and an exclusive lounge and solarium.

Entertainment & Recreation aboard MSC Bellissima

When it comes to outdoor space and novel diversions, MSC have really put some thought into Bellissima’s design. This is a huge ship by any measure, but the sheer extent of her facilities is impressive.

There are dedicated facilities for toddlers, kids and teens, as well as a 700 sqm playground and an arcade with video games, a flight simulator, F1 race simulator and even a full-size bowling alley.

These are all up on Deck 16 by the Sportsplex and Fitness Centre, which is in a great spot overlooking the pool area and framed by floor-to-ceiling glass windows wrapping around the room.

It’s well equipped with treadmills, bikes, cardio equipment, Kinesis and a weights training area. There is a separate spinning room and area for circuit training, as well as a separate room for classes such as Pilates and yoga.

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That large water park we mentioned has a Grand Canyon theme and features 3 waterslides (including 1 high-speed), a Champagne Bowl and a Himalayan Bridge (spanning the deck’s entire width).

Down below on the pool deck proper, there’s be a huge lido area with a total of 4 swimming pools (including a 25-metre Atmosphere pool, a 10-metre indoor Bamboo pool, and the Horizon pool all the way aft).

Circling it all is a jogging track and observation area for entering and leaving port, and further forward there’s an adults-only solarium with a retractable glass ceiling.

Doremi Studio aboard MSC Bellissima (courtesy Bolsover Cruise Club)

The kids’ areas are the joint-biggest on any MSC Cruises ship (alongside sister ship Meraviglia), with separate rooms for different age groups (a baby room, kids’ area and a teens’ area).

All the facilities for families, children and teens are in one place and include the Doremi Studio Lounge, a dedicated lounge for all family activities; and the Doremi Tech Lab, which includes a 3D printer. The baby room was designed in partnership with Italian babywear and manufacturer Chicco and the main kids’ rooms are all LEGO-themed.

Running almost the full height of the ship’s three entertainment decks is a central atrium with live entertainment, a traditional lobby café, internet café, ship’s library and of course the guest relations and shore excursion desks.

On either side of the atrium, panoramic lifts with an outward-facing design provide stunning views of the ocean.

The Galleria Bellissima indoor promenade, MSC’s take on RCL’s Royal Promenade, starts on the second deck of the atrium, Deck 6, and runs the length of the ship’s front end all the way to the two-level theatre in the bow.

The Galleria features an 80-metre long LED ceiling changing throughout the day with different skies, patterns, and mini-movies. This area is the ship’s social hub, with shops, bars and restaurants spanning both levels.

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There are some real gems here, such as a crepes and ice-cream café, a chocolate bar, a food market and the ship’s range of specialty restaurants. It is also home to nightly parades, featuring the onboard performers as they make their way forward to the theatre.

The Theatre aboard MSC Bellissima

The theatre itself in the bow on Deck 6 and 7 is a 985-seat venue with a huge balcony level and is home to Broadway-style productions (6 new shows) and classical concerts, with 2 shows per night. This space competes with the Carousel Lounge all the way aft on Deck 7, where 12 weekly Cirque du Soleil shows are held for 120 passengers for dinner, and an additional 290 seated guests for drinks.

Cirque du Soleil at sea is featured aboard MSC Bellissima

The aft areas of Decks 5 and 6 are occupied by the two main dining rooms. In a smart use of space and throughflow areas, MSC have turned the main entryway aboard MSC Bellissima into an Immersive Emotions Gallery, which debuted aboard MSC Seaside.

This not only gives the main dining rooms a dramatic entrance, but also creates gallery footfall for the cruise line.

The Meraviglia-class are MSC’s first vessels with an onboard museum – showcasing original art masterpieces from The Louvre (in Paris).

The original art works are shown behind bullet-proof glass and MSC signed a special insurance policy, according to which in case of damages the company would personally purchase these assets.

The casino aboard MSC Bellissima

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Just ahead of the Carousel Lounge on Deck 7 is MSC Bellissima’s expansive casino. Open only when the ship is in international waters, its one of two indoor smoking areas on the ship, although only active players will be allowed to smoke. For the rest, there is the humidor cigar lounge.

In a design departure from other MSC ships, MSC Bellissima, like her sister ship Meraviglia, has her 1,100 square metre spa located all the way forward on Deck 7, above the theatre and not over the bow.

The Aurea Spa aboard MSC Bellissima

These spas on Meraviglia and Bellissima are the biggest on any MSC ship, with 20 treatment rooms and possibly the biggest and best thermal suite afloat.

There are 18 Balinese therapists offering treatments from facials and traditional Balinese massage techniques to Thai massages, a candle massage and the signature Aurea del Mare treatment with shells.

Staterooms aboard MSC Bellissima

MSC Bellissima has a total of 2,244 staterooms in 32 categories (with 14 real differences between cabins). At least 75% of cabins have private balconies.

The largest aboard MSC Bellissima are the Yacht Club Royal Suites (700 square feet). There are also 46 wheelchair-accessible cabins and luxury Spa Suites.

A standard balcony stateroom aboard MSC Bellissima

Every cabin has a mini-bar, a USB port on the desk and a magazine/newspaper rack underneath the TV. Bedside lights are activated by touch, there are switch-controlled Do Not Disturb and Make Up My Room signs and lots of extra spots for storage, such as the bedside tables and magazine racks.

All cabins come with two twin beds (which can be made into a double), a double wardrobe, a desk with European two-pin sockets and a USB socket, footstool, fixed bedside lighting, two bedside tables, a phone, safe, hair dryer and a large interactive TV with numerous channels in multiple languages. There is also be access to the digital assistant Zoe in each stateroom.

Dining aboard MSC Bellissima

There are 12 new dining options aboard MSC Bellissima and 20 bars and lounges in total.

There is the Yacht Club Fine Dining Restaurant for MSC Yacht Club guests (who stay in the restricted access 94 cabin Yacht Club area), as well as the Mediterranean Village specialty dining room and the Kaito Sushi and Kaito Teppanyaki restaurants, widely regarded as the best sushi restaurants at sea.

Teppanyaki Restaurant

MSC has forged a relationship with several big-name chefs, including French chocolatier, Jean-Philippe Maury, who has his own chocolate shop in the Galleria Bellissima promenade. MSC also has a partnership with Eataly, which also has a prime spot on the Galleria. It serves various Italian treats like Parma ham, cheese and pasta, which you can also buy.

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The main dining room (on Deck 5 and 6) is truly massive, with a corridor that features unique mirrors and a glass-encased wine cellar running down its centre. It serves traditional Italian cuisine specialties and wines and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For the dinner service, a 7-course menu is offered (including vegan and vegetarian menus, and halal meal options on her Dubai cruise season).

Up on Deck 15 behind the main pool area, the Marketplace Buffet Restaurant & Bar is open 20 hours per day and serves international cuisines and Mediterranean specialties, as well as cuisine based on the region in which the ship is sailing.

Hola! Tapas

There is also a La Piazzetta Restaurant (self-service buffet and pizzeria) offering Afternoon Tea (and a midnight buffet) in the Galleria, a Butcher’s Cut American steakhouse and the new “HOLA! Tapas Bar” specialty restaurant via partnership with Michelin-chef Ramon Freixa.

The venue provides a casual dining experience with shared plates and both group and individual seating arrangements. For more information about the dining experience aboard MSC Bellissima, check out Cruise to Travel’s write-up.

MSC Meraviglia vs MSC Bellissima

Compared to Meraviglia, Bellissima has a larger retail area at 700 square metres, including 3 boutiques (for luxury watches and jewelry), 8 more shops, the fleet’s first shipboard retail theatre, and a 30% larger Beauty Salon.

The ship’s shopping area contains 200 brands. Bellissima also has 2 new tapas venues (Ramon Freixa, Hola! Tapas Bar). It is also MSC’s second ship (after Meraviglia) with Cirque du Soleil at Sea (in Carousel Lounge) with 12 weekly shows (including 2 new shows exclusive to Bellissima).

On Bellissima, MSC installed the first “virtual assistants” in all passenger cabins. The digital assistant (Zoe) will be introduced fleetwide between 2019 and 2024. She is available in 7 languages and answers all passenger requests regarding onboard facilities and services.

MSC Bellissima is also the first MSC ship with a “Man Overboard Detection System”. The real-time video data (provided by the ship’s CCTVs) is monitored and analysed in a central security center by 2 independent image processing systems, which significantly lowers false alerts.

When the alarm activates (in a man overboard case), light and acoustic signals notify the ship’s security officers who can immediately review the recorded video and notify the Bridge crew to start a rescue operation.

MSC Bellissima Cruise Itinerary

MSC Bellissima has been cruising on Central and Western Mediterranean itineraries since March, 2019. The 7-day round-trip cruise itineraries offer departures from Barcelona in Spain, Marseille in France, and Italy (Genoa, Naples).

For the 2019-2020 winter cruise season the ship will be homeported in Dubai, with inter-porting opportunities in Abu Dhabi as well. Two different 7-night Arabian Gulf itineraries are offered, visiting either the eastern or western parts of the Gulf.

MSC Bellissima is by far the most exciting and most advanced cruise ship ever to be deployed in the Middle East, underscoring the astonishing growth of the Dubai cruise industry over the last five years.

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