Gallery: MSC Meravialia christening

MSC Cruises launched its ‘evolutionary’ cruise ship last weekend. Jane Archer reports from Le Havre

Hundreds of agents will be invited to see MSC Cruises’ new ship Meraviglia when it visits the UK on two voyages next year.

UK and Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso said there would be ship visits for up to 300 agents at “as many ports as possible”.

“This will be a great sales tool for us and sweep away misconceptions about the brand.”

Calls include Southampton, Invergordon, Greenock and Dublin.

MSC Meraviglia was christened in Le Havre, France, on June 3 by Italian screen legend Sophia Loren (below), the ship’s godmother.

Some 250 of the cruise line’s top-selling UK agents, and those new to the brand, were invited to tour the ship ahead of the event.

Gianni Onorato, the line’s chief executive, described the vessel as “an evolution, not a revolution”.

It is one of the biggest cruise ships in the world with capacity for 5,700 passengers.

He said: “We don’t build big, we build rich. This ship is rich in amenities. Cruise holidays will always be about destination, but they are also about the food and the entertainment. With Meraviglia we have elevated the brand.”

For the first time on an MSC ship, passengers can choose a flexible dining option that allows them to eat when they wish or opt for traditional two-sitting dining.

This is only on Meraviglia but will be available on MSC Seaside when it launches in December.

Meraviglia is also the only ship with Cirque du Soleil shows.

Onorato said MSC Bellissima, launching in 2019, will be 15 metres longer than Meraviglia and will have a museum with art pieces on loan from some of Europe’s leading galleries. “Passengers can enjoy the paintings in the morning and cocktails by the pool in the afternoon,” Paradiso said.

MSC has orders and options for another 10 ships by 2026.

MSC Meraviglia is a ship of many firsts

Whether clients want to zap aliens in New York, sip their way through 47 beers and lagers or tuck into a super-sized steak, they can on MSC Meraviglia. The ship is the first in the world to host Cirque du Soleil shows, which will run twice a day.

It also boasts the first two‑storey promenade on a cruise ship, lined with bars, restaurants and shops. It is the first in the MSC Cruises fleet with a steakhouse, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant, MSC for Me digital customer-service technology, single cabins and modular accommodation that sleeps up to 10 people. There are kids’ play areas, a water park and ropes course, as well as a games area called Sportplex.

Agents’ views

Phil Evans, owner, Cruise Nation
“This is the MSC of the future. I have always loved MSC’s Italian style but MSC Meraviglia takes it to the next level. The decor, service and quality of the food was outstanding.”

Kirsteen Fox, marketing director, Iglu
“This ship will really change perceptions of MSC. The decor is modern, the buffet good and I am really impressed with the Sportplex and kids’ clubs. I will certainly consider a cruise on this ship.”

Claire Brighton, senior commercial manager, Advantage
“This is trendier than MSC’s other ships and will appeal more to the UK. It’s more contemporary and has a younger, fresher feel. It’s light and airy, and the dining choice is just what clients want.”

Gallery: MSC Meravialia christening