MSC Cruises has hosted the naming ceremony for MSC Virtuosa, with Hollywood superstar Sophia Loren officially naming the ship in Dubai.
MSC Cruises chose the United Arab Emirates’ commercial capital to host the ceremony in recognition of its long-term commitment to the Middle East market.
MSC Virtuosa can carry up to 6,334 passengers and 1,704 crew and is set to serve the Arabian Sea until March from her base in Dubai.
The event at Port Rashid, in partnership with the Dubai Department of Economy & Tourism and DP World, reflects the growing importance of the emirate as a must-visit destination for global cruise holidaymakers.
A long-standing maritime tradition, the official naming ceremony of the ship took place in the presence of the master of the vessel, captain Francesco Veniero and local dignitaries.
Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, said: “We are honoured to host this time-honoured maritime tradition ceremony in the United Arab Emirates during its Golden Jubilee year and with it, to mark our longstanding and long-term commitment to this region.
“This is also why this winter MSC Virtuosa, a new and one of the most technologically and environmentally advanced ships in our fleet, will homeport in the country as part of our deployment in the Gulf region.
“Cruising is an integral part of the dynamic tourism industry in the UAE, and thanks to our uniquely global distribution network we will continue to promote the country and the Middle East all around the world as an attractive holiday option to support the further growth of the tourism industry locally.”
The star-studded event culminated in a firework display against the stunning Dubai skyline, before a celebratory gourmet dinner in one of the ships’ elegant restaurants.
Event guests were also treated to a performance by internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Rag’n'Bone Man.
Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chief executive of DP World, said: “It is a proud moment for us to host the MSC Virtuosa naming ceremony at Mina Rashid that has consistently reaffirmed its status as a leading destination, regionally and globally.
“The port’s state-of-the-art facilities, passenger handling capacity and strategic location have helped us win several significant accolades, the recent being the Middle East’s Leading Cruise Port title at the World Travel Awards, received for the 14th consecutive year.
“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.
“Our sole aim is to reinforce its status as a preferred recreational facility that represents Dubai’s rich cultural heritage.
“Through our efforts, we will strive to ensure that the Emirate continues to gain recognition globally as a world-class cruise destination.
“We are also expecting a total of 126 ship calls and over 500,000 cruise visitors for the upcoming 2021/22 cruise season.
“This will further bolster Dubai’s tourism figures and drive our progress.”
The innovative ship stands 19-decks tall and is set to welcome her guests this winter for week-long cruises from Dubai.
The ship’s showstopping feature is its iconic 112-metre promenade with a stunning LED sky dome, the social heart of the ship.
Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of the Dubai Department of Economy & Tourism, commented: “Dubai continues to chart a course forward as one of the world’s leading tourism destinations and the cruise capital of the Middle East, as we continually strive to realise the goal inspired by our visionary leadership to make Dubai the most preferred, visited and revisited destination.
“Hosting the naming ceremony for MSC Cruises’ newest flagship vessel, MSC Virtuosa in Dubai, is testament to the popularity of the city as the cruise gateway to the region.
“Dubai’s reputation as a cruise hub continues to grow in stature and iconic moments and milestone events such as these reflect the crucial contribution of cruising to the city’s tourism industry.
“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 fuelling growth during this landmark year for Dubai featuring Expo 2020 and celebrations surrounding the UAE Golden Jubilee, and beyond.”
Image: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images