The MSC Bellisima Is Christened – Other Cruise News: Saga Cruises To Go All-Inclusive Earlier – Oceanco Unveils 345-foot Expedition Yacht Design
by Kevin Griffin
This weekend saw the stormy christening of MSC Cruises’ new MSC Bellissima in Southampton, from where she had just departed when this column was completed. Elsewhere in the news, Saga has announced that its new Spirit of Discovery will become an all-inclusive ship earlier than thought, while Holland’s Oceanco have introduced a new expedition yacht design at the Dubai Boat Show.
THIS WEEK’S STORY
The MSC Bellissima Is Christened
Saturday saw the christening in Southampton of the 171,598-ton 4,500-berth MSC Bellissima . The ship had been floated out of the dock at Chantiers de l’Atlantique in St Nazaire on June 14, 2018, and delivery took place on February 27, 2019, before she proceeded to Southampton for naming.
The new ship has dimensions of 1,033 x 141 feet and a service speed of 22 knots. Bellissima is the first ship to have Zoe, the industry’s first digital assistant, in every cabin. This equivalent of Amazon’s Alexa can answer questions in seven languages.
The Saturday evening ceremony in Southampton got off to a stormy start, when the christening stand began to creak under the winds of Storm Freya. With caution in mind, MSC made the decision to bring thousands of guests and media on board after the storm picked up, causing the structure to rattle.
The evening had got off to a spectacular start, with a performance from Cirque du Soleil, as well as a duet from Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo, a duo that has recently taken to entertaining cruise ships passengers at their own home in Italy.
UK host Holly Willoughby’s kept up the show even as Freya threatened to upstage her. “The British weather has intervened… it’s not safe,” executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago told the crowd an hour into the show, and guests were invited to re-board what is one of the world’s largest cruise ships.
Eventually, all were on board, and the ship’s godmother Sophia Loren joined Mr Vago on the ship’s central promenade for the ribbon cutting, with the moment projected around the ship on screens and the giant, ever-changing Led ceiling.
Few braved the outside decks to catch the fireworks, but a sigh of relief was heard as the bottle of champagne smashed easily onto the hull. Tied up at berth 101 at City Cruise Terminal in Southampton, where she arrived on Friday, the MSC Bellissima is the largest cruise ship to have been christened in the UK.
Saturday’s gala dinner followed, a little late, with a menu by chef Raymond Blanc of the famed Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons . MSC Cruises has now revealed a partnership with the Michelin two-star chef.
The Bellissima set sail today for La Coruna in Spain, headed south towards the choppy seas of the Bay of Biscay. The mammoth ship, second of the MSC Meraviglia class, departed Southampton not long after 19:00 hours local time today.
OTHER CRUISE NEWS
Saga Cruises To Go All-Inclusive Earlier
Saga Cruises’ first cruise ship to be built to order, the 999-berth Spirit of Discovery, is set to go all-inclusive from winter 2019, two months earlier than originally planned.
All-inclusive sailings will now begin with the 14-night Spanish Islands of the Atlantic voyage, which departs Southampton on November 4, 2019.
Drinks (house spirits, wine, beer and soft drinks), gratuities, specialty restaurants, 24-hour room service and Wi-Fi will all be included, as will a chauffeur to and from the cruise port for passengers based within 250-miles.
Shore excursions will cost additional, though Saga will provide complimentary shuttle buses in ports where the town is more than 500 yards from the ship.
To be christened in Dover on July 5, the new ship will have 540 all-balcony cabins and suites, with 100 staterooms designed for single travellers.
Other features include a main dining room, two specialty restaurants and a Britannia Lounge, as well as two swimming pools, a theatre, a library, a spa and a beauty salon.
Sister ship Spirit of Adventure will be all-inclusive from the moment she joins the fleet in August 2020.
Spirit of Discovery will replace Saga Pearl II this year and Spirit of Adventure will replace Saga Sapphire next year.
Saga Pearl II is now on her final cruise for Saga, a 54-night voyages to and from South Africa.
Oceanco Unveils 345-foot Expedition Yacht Design
Dutch super-yacht builder Oceanco unveiled its latest vessel design at the Dubai International Boat Show 2019 (boatshowdubai.com). Its newest project, the 345-foot diesel-electric Esquel, has been designed to explore new territories.
Oceanco’s largest luxury yacht to date is the 394-foot Redentore, currently under construction.
Sporting a displacement hull with a plumb bow, Esquel has been conceived for extensive cruising to remote regions extending from the North Pole to Antarctica and anywhere in-between.
A perfect blend between an expedition vessel and a super-yacht, Esquel offers the best of both worlds. She has a large tender garage for fast ribs, tenders, water-sports toys and diving gear.
Her expansive uncluttered main deck, measuring 2,150 square feet has an aft glass superstructure with an enclosed pool and spa with panoramic views. This deck also offers plenty of space for accommodating locked containers of any sort, as well as additional tenders and off – road vehicles.
For those interested in marine biology and ocean conservation, Esquel could become a platform for any number of scientific studies such as coral aquaculture —creating reef farms aboard to help restore our world’s dying reefs.
Esquel has a very flexible layout and can be adapted to house additional multi-purpose cabins, first response units, seminar areas, and research offices. But Esquel is also eminently suited to host a celebrity party at the Cannes Film Festival to—perhaps— raise awareness for ocean conservation.
With her strengthened hull and Polar class, she has a cruising range of 7,000 nautical miles and can reach a top speed of 16.5 knots. Esquel has been designed and engineered to carry and deploy two submarines, a land vehicle, and motorbikes, as well as accommodate a helicopter.
Able to navigate deep sea worldwide, Esquel will have dimensions of 345 by 57 feet on a draft of 14.1feet. Her gross tonnage will be 5,000.
(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)