Middle East Cruise News

MSC Cruises to homeport new Meraviglia Plus-class MSC Virtuosa in Dubai for 2021/22 season

MSC Cruises will homeport its new Meraviglia Plus-class cruise ship, MSC Virtuosa, in the Arabian Gulf for the 2021/22 cruise season.

The announcement was made by Angelo Capurro, Executive Director for Emerging Markets, MSC Cruises, during a ceremony in Dubai this week to mark MSC Bellissima’s maiden roundtrip Dubai cruise in the Arabian Gulf.

Capurro said the cruise line’s global sourcing strategy, with a particular focus on the emerging markets (he is in charge of 28 markets in 52 countries) was paying off handsomely, prompting the increase in capacity.

MSC Virtuosa is currently under construction and will be launched in 2020

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“Our year-on-year growth in the Dubai and wider UAE cruise market has averaged more than 40% for the past three years,” he said. “And MSC Cruises has responded to this by deploying ever-larger ships, we increased our capacity 86% between 2017 and 2018, and by 36% between 2018 and 2019.”

“And most of this demand is coming from the emerging markets,” he added. “After Italy, which accounts for 15% of our passengers on Dubai cruises, the emerging markets are the second-largest with 14.5%.”

Emerging markets for MSC Cruises include Russia (5%), Eastern Europe (4%), the Middle East & North Africa (3%) and South Africa (2.5%).

MSC Bellissima is the largest cruise ship ever to homeport in the region, MSC Virtuosa will be even larger

And while he declined to give exact figures, it was suggested that MSC Cruises’ roundtrip Arabian Gulf itineraries from Dubai and Abu Dhabi sailed at average occupancy of more than 90%.

Hence the reason it keeps increasing tonnage. During the 2018/19 cruise season it homeported two ships in the region simultaneously for the first time, and will do the same with MSC Bellissima for the current season (alongside MSC Lirica) and with MSC Seaview in 2020/21 (again alongside MSC Lirica).

“For the 2021/22 cruise season we’ll increase capacity yet again with the deployment of MSC Virtuosa,” said Capurro.

Like MSC Bellissima (currently homeporting in Dubai), Virtuosa will feature the grand, LED-covered promenade

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MSC Virtuosa is currently under construction and due for delivery in November, 2020. She will be the cruise line’s second Meraviglia Plus-class cruise ship, a sister ship to MSC Grandiosa, launched earlier this year.

This means that while MSC Virtuosa will be very similar to Bellissima in style, design and atmosphere, she will be larger (181,000-gross tons versus 171,000), carry more passengers (6,200 versus 5,200) and will offer more passenger amenities and facilities.

Capurro declined to comment on what new features the ship would offer, or what he exact Arabian Gulf itineraries would entail, but it’s almost certain that MSC will continue to interport between Dubai and Abu Dhabi (offering both as a turnaround port for roundtrip itineraries) and will continue to sail to Sir Bani Yas, Khassab, Doha and Muscat.

MSC Bellissima (Meraviglia-class) versus MSC Virtuosa (Meraviglia Plus-class)

The ship itself will also be even more advanced than MSC Bellissima as well as larger. Like sister ship MSC Grandiosa, its likely that MSC Virtuosa will feature enhanced technology with ship-wide touch screens programmed with more information and increased capability for Zoe, the voice-enabled assistant in every cabin.

Lifts will be operated by an exterior screen where passengers select a floor and immediately see which lift will arrive first.

It’s also likely that her 10 restaurants and 21 21 bars and cafes will get the same enhancements, such as an expanded L’Atelier Bistrot speciality restaurant, with seating for 66.

The restaurant debuted on MSC Bellissima, and is designed to reflect the atmosphere of a traditional Parisian eatery, it has a large lounge bar area with live music and (aboard Grandiosa) the “Degas Danse Dessin” exhibition of 26 original works by French Impressionist Edgar Degas.

The installation also gives passengers the opportunity to discover the history, techniques and subjects of the artist’s work through interactive video commentaries.

MSC Virtuosa’s casino is also likely to be larger than that aboard Bellissima, with the latest in gaming technology including 164 slot machines and live gaming tables.

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