MSC Virtuosa has been named in Dubai, becoming only the second cruise ship ever to do so, and the largest ever to homeport in the Arabian Gulf.
MSC Cruises newest Meraviglia Plus-class cruise ship was named by silver screen icon Sophia Loren in Port Rashid alongside at the Dubai Cruise Terminal, ahead of the ship’s maiden cruise season in the Arabian Gulf.
Sophia Loren led the ceremonial ribbon-cutting and MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago thanked the UAE for its “precious support” during the cruise industry’s recovery from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We continue to promote the UAE around the world … We employ hundreds of people in the UAE … The pandemic did not take away our vision of long-term growth,” he said.
“Port Rashid is today a home to us and will always be,” he added.
MSC Cruises has established itself as a market leader in the Arabian Gulf, with the cruise line alone representing around half of all cruise passengers that sail from Dubai and Abu Dhabi annually.
MSC Virtuosa is the largest cruise ship the cruise line has ever homeported in the country. She departed on the first of several dozen 7-night roundtrip Dubai cruises on Sunday, visiting Oman, Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island and, for the first time, Dammam in Saudi Arabia.
This was the second time a cruise ship naming ceremony has been held in Dubai. Back in 2010, Costa Deliziosa was named in Dubai ahead of her maiden cruise season in the region.
Highlights of the ceremony for MSC Virtuosa included the Dubai Police marching band followed by juggling, spinning and gymnastics performed by MSC Cruises’ entertainment team.
An artist took to the stage to create a montage of scenes that resonate with Dubai, made using only sand.
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO, DP World, which operates Port Rashid and the Dubai Cruise Terminal, described the evening as a proud moment for the local cruise industry.
“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,” he said.
“Our sole aim is to reinforce its status as a preferred recreational facility that represents Dubai’s rich cultural heritage,” he added. “Through our efforts, we will strive to ensure that the Emirate continues to gain recognition globally as a world-class cruise destination.”
Dubai Cruise Terminal expects to receive 126 calls and over 500,000 cruise visitors for the upcoming 2021/22 cruise season, its first year of operation since the pandemic.
“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 fueling growth during this landmark year for Dubai featuring Expo 2020 and celebrations surrounding the UAE Golden Jubilee, and beyond,” said Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism.
MSC Virtuosa will homeport in Dubai, cruising roundtrip in the Arabian Gulf until March 2022. The $800 millon vessel can accommodate about 6,500 passengers and features more than 30 restaurants and bars, a shopping mall and entertainment facilities across 19 decks.
Her 1,000-seat theatre is home to Broadway-style productions every night, the MSC Aurea Spa is the largest in the fleet, the Tropical Pool has a retractable glass roof for swimming in any weather, the Savannah Aquapark is one of the largest at sea, and the Horizon Pool offers amphitheatre-style seating and in-water loungers.
There’s also a Himalayan Ropes course with obstacles dangling about 80 metres above the ocean, an F1 race car simulator, a bowling alley, a large retail area and countless other amenities.