MSC Bellissima’s Christening Ceremony Highlights
MSC Cruises have been on my list of favourite cruise lines for a few years now, but during the Christening of MSC Bellissima in Southampton I fell in love with them all over again.
Firstly, the ship itself, as her name suggests, is beautiful. The elegance and style that this family owned cruise line is known for, oozes from every detail of the ship. We were given a warm welcome as we embarked the ship the day before the Christening. This allowed everyone the opportunity to explore the ship and experience it for themselves.
The Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) held an event onboard for its members, which allowed MSC Cruises to show off their new ship to the other cruise lines. Having worked in the cruise trade before becoming a writer and influencer, I caught up with many people I have come to know over the years. Here are just a few of them.
I met up with some of the bloggers for a mandatory welcome drink.
Feeling peckish and a bit chilly, we all headed to the buffet for a lovely lunch. Whilst everyone tucked into the freshly made Italian pizza, I tried to put a keto lunch plate together. I think I did a pretty good job here.
After lunch everyone had their own plans, so we each did our own thing and arranged to meet up before dinner. I explored some of the upper decks of the ship, making the most of the sunshine despite the chilly breeze.
The indoor pool area means there is always a place to enjoy a swim or relax in the hot tub, regardless of the weather.
The Sky Lounge on deck 18 gives incredible panoramic views whilst relaxing with a refreshment and some live music.
A Beautiful Gift
Soon it was time for me to head back to my stateroom to unpack and prepare for the evening events. The room was very spacious and well set out, and a lovely surprise was waiting for me.
My brand new bed looked so comfortable. But I would have to wait until a lot later to try it out.
A Wonderful Evening
Dinner in the main dining room was amazing. I was far too busy having fun and chatting with my fellow bloggers to make a note of the menu but the food was the best I have ever had on an MSC ship.
I chose a delicious pate starter.
My sea bass main course was equally delicious.
I couldn’t resist the dessert.
After dinner we went up to the Sky Lounge. It had a lovely relaxing atmosphere, with a great singer and band performing jazz favourites.
Around 11.30pm a big party kicked off in the Sportsplex. The DJ played until the early hours and the dance floor was packed.
At 2am, I knew I had to drag myself away and get some sleep. As I walked to my stateroom I passed the pool which looked stunning under the night sky.
The Big Day
The day of the ceremony had arrived and a huge buzz of excitement filled the air. I went to get a better look at the facilities on board, starting with the Arizona Aquapark on deck 19. This is an amazing place for adults and kids to enjoy waterslides and try the exhilarating high ropes course.
Taking the stairs up to deck 20, the shiny new funnels were so quiet and clean. MSC Bellissima runs with significantly increased energy efficiency and has advanced technology for cleaner ship emissions.
Spanning three decks, MSC Yacht Club is a ship within a ship experience for those looking for the ultimate luxury retreat. I always feel it inappropriate to walk around the VIP lounge taking photos, but here is a photo of Deluxe Suite #16013.
The MSC Aurea Spa on deck 7 is a massive 1,100 square metre authentic Balinese spa. It’s 20 treatment rooms offer 160 treatments in addition to the hair salon, barber shop, nail treatments and medispa.
The thermal area offers a range of saunas, steam rooms, mediterranean baths, a salt room, ice room, blower pool, emotional showers and water benches.
MSC Bellissima boasts 18 bars and lounges. Despite not being a fan of the onboard pubs on other cruiselines, Masters of the Sea really appealed to me. It became the meeting point for our group throughout the event, and it was here I arranged to meet up with cruise ship photographer and friend, Andrew Sassoli-Walker.
Andrew had some free time between events, so we took a quick tour of the speciality restaurants onboard and sampled some of the food.
A sample of the steak served in Butcher’s Cut, the steakhouse parlour. It was mouthwateringly tender. The desserts looked delicious, but I resisted on this occasion.
At 3pm, a press conference was held in the London Theatre. MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, who has led MSC Cruises to over 800% growth, took to the stage and talked about how the family led business is different from other cruise lines. Without having to pay shareholder dividends, they are able to reinvest more of the profit into the ships, which are already the youngest fleet at sea.
He also spoke about their restoration project. Once an industrial island, Ocean Cay is now a marine reserve and private island of the cruise line.
MSC for Unicef
“The contribution of MSC around the world has changed the lives of tens of millions of children.” Mike Penrose, Executive Director Unicef UK.
MSC Cruises are celebrating a 10 year partnership with the Unicef, which has raised nearly ten million euros for the charity. Executive Director of Unicef UK, Mike Penrose came on stage and addressing the Aponte Family, Mr Vago, MSC Cruises and guests, he said “It’s not an understatement to say that the work you’ve done, the contribution of MSC around the world has changed the lives of tens of millions of children.” This was news to me. I had no idea the cruise line had made such a difference. I am sure I wasn’t the person in the room to well up with emotion after hearing this statement.
Mr Penrose was there to introduce the legendary ex-BBC reporter Martin Bell OBE. “I spent 22 years myself working on the front line of humanitarian aid, I’ve worked all around the world and we used to have a joke wherever I worked in conflict, that only three things were guaranteed to get through to the front line, those were beer, cigarettes and Mr Martin Bell” said Penrose.
First Hand Experiences
Mr Bell took the stage and thanked everyone in MSC for what they had done to “change the fortunes of children all around the world, rescuing children and rescuing childhoods.” Speaking of his 18 years as a Unicef Ambassador, Mr Bell recalled “looking in the eye of an 6 year old girl who was too late at the nutritional feeding station. One of the most heartbreaking experiences was just watching the life ebb away, but certainly other children got there in time. I held the hand of a nine year old girl in Yemen who had been bombed out of her home. The difference between PTSD in a child is that it lasts longer. I’m extraordinarily grateful to what MSC has done. Nearly ten million euros over the years. May you go on doing it.”
It was a moving moment for everyone in the theatre and as MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato took to the stage, he echoed the feelings of the entire room and said that Mr Bell’s words were “very touching” and acknowledged “how important it is for us to really stop and think how we can improve the life of human beings around the world.”
Creating Luxury That Is Responsible
The press conference continued and Mr Onorato talked about the relationship between MSC Cruises and their work with Celebrity Chefs, saying that “dining is at the heart of the cruise experience”. I think we can agree with him on that one. Ramon Freixa, Jean-Philippe Maury and Harald Wohlfahrt took turns in coming onto the stage and thanking MSC Cruises for the partnership with their onboard restaurants.
Then came a big surprise. Mr Onorato announced a new partnership with none other than world renowned chef, Raymond Blanc. Mr Blanc, who has trained 38 michelin starred chefs, said he was particularly touched to hear Mr Vago talk so well about Unicef and creating a luxury that is responsible. He said it was exciting to be part of that vision and to deliver an excellent experience for the guests and went on to inform the audience that he would be cooking the evening meal for the 170 celebrity guests onboard.
So with the press conference over with, it was time to get ready for the evening.
The Naming Ceremony of MSC Bellissima
After a few glasses of bubbly on the ship, everyone made their way down to the huge marquee located on the quayside.
MSC Cruises had constructed a beautiful walkway with blue carpet that led us to the marquee keeping us guarded from the elements.
Our host for the evening Holly Willoughby looked stunning as she welcomed everybody to the ceremony.
Andrea and Matteo Bocelli gave an incredible performance of their duet.
The newest cadets currently being trained by MSC Cruises, paraded down the aisles to take the stage.
A video of the incredible charity work MSC Cruises is involved in was shown.
Following this MSC Cruises UK & Ireland Managing Director, Antonio Paradiso took to the stage and invited Nicola Graham founder of Ruben’s Retreat to join him. Nicola told of the tragic loss of her son Ruben and the work they are doing to help families. Antonio announced a partnership with the charity.
The wind outside had picked up and a decision was made to continue the ceremony on board the ship.
Back On Board
Once we were all settled back onboard, Sophia Loren appeared in the galleria with the officers.
After a few words from the legendary award winning actress, the hull of Bellissima was projected onto the LED ceiling. There was a loud 3-2-1 and the bottle of champagne could be seen smashing against the hull of Bellissima.
There was a huge cheer from the crowd and a sea of champagne glasses in the air. Our media group enjoyed a delicious dinner in the main dining room.
A delicious main course of applewood smoked duck breast salad, orange confit and asparagus pomegranate cherry dressing.
Leee John Performs with Chic
I miss my younger days of going out at the weekends and having a good dance. THIS for me was the highlight. I was ready for dancing!
Leee John performed a non stop high energy 2 hour set with back to back hits. It was totally incredible and I did not stop dancing. For videos of the show please visit my Instagram page @ships.and.champagne and click on the highlight #mscbellissima
Chic singer Folami and bass player Jerry Barnes joined Leee John on stage to perform their hit “Good Times”. Not only was this one of Nile Rogers biggest hit records, but it has appeared as a sample on 192 songs.
Well done MSC UK team for pulling off an absolutely incredible event, that people will always remember.
Cruise with Flavia onboard MSC Bellissima
Who fancies joining me on a cruise onboard MSC Bellissima? I am hosting a group on a 7 night Mediterranean cruise onboard MSC Bellissima. This cruise is suitable for first time cruisers, families with children, or solo travellers who would benefit from travelling within a larger group. The date is 25th October 2019 sailing from Barcelona. The group is being handled by Cruise Specialist Jane Cowley at Travel Counsellors, who’s contact details can be found here.