For those unfamiliar with the cruise industry it might seem like a big gamble. At a time of profound crisis in the sector, due to the Covid 19 pandemic that left ships at anchor for many months, MSC Cruises writes a billionaire check and gets Virtuosa delivered: it will be the largest ship in the fleet. If, however, the history of this giant of the seas is known, it is known how the ability to react in critical moments has always been the strength of the shipowner Gianluigi Aponte. Suffice it to say that, despite being the fourth largest company in the world, it was the first to devise an innovative stringent health protocol that convinced all the maritime and state authorities to give the green light to the restart of voyages in the Mediterranean last August 16. The delivery of Msc Virtuosa, in such a difficult time for the cruise sector – explains Pierfrancesco Vago, executive president of MSC cruises and son-in-law of the shipowner Gianluigi Aponte – concretely expresses the way in which, as a family business, we continue to look to the long term and to build our future. The decisive attitude in the management of the pandemic and the clear vision of the future has led Msc, heart in Naples and safe in Geneva, to be increasingly a protagonist on a global scale and also politically. It is no coincidence that Vago has just been elected world president of Clia (Cruise Lines International Association), the largest commercial association that brings together the companies that own over 95 percent of the cabins available on the international market.
Virtuosa, the new queen of the MSC cruises board consisting of 18 boats, was delivered privately in the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyards in Saint-Nazaire, France, where the official flag ceremony and blessing took place. In addition to Vago, both his wife Alexa Aponte-Vago and his two children were present, along with representatives of the team that takes care of the new construction of MSC Cruises, the managers and workers of the shipyard. We could not fail to personally welcome this new ship which is now part of our fleet – says Vago – and we have always been committed to building, from time to time, the most innovative ships in the world from an environmental point of view, in able to offer the latest technology available.
The Virtuosa is 331 meters long, 16 meters longer than the previous flagship Meraviglia, 43 meters wide and 65 meters high. When the pandemic is a distant memory, it will be able to host 6,334 cruise passengers, in addition to the 1,704 crew. with more public space per capita than the other ships in the fleet spread over 19 decks. Guests can indulge themselves among 21 bars, 9 restaurants, a 945-seat theater that will offer different shows every evening, 5 swimming pools including an indoor one and a Himalayan bridge that offers a spectacular and adrenaline-filled rope course 80 meters above the water. The flagship, like the other Meraviglia class ships, boasts a 101-meter long promenade, set by a LED ceiling capable of projecting ever-changing scenographies and this area constitutes the heart of the ship and is spread over two decks that house boutiques , restaurants and bars. Furthermore, in the evening the promenade can turn into a big nightclub. Thanks to the health protocol the only place in the world where you can dance safely again. I am proud of what our teams have achieved together, despite a difficult healthcare context – says Laurent Castaing, general manager of Chantiers de l’Atlantique – and with the construction of MSC Virtuosa we have reached a level of finish and performance that will give future ship guests the best a cruise can offer. This is the sixteenth ship Chantiers de l’Atlantique has built for MSC Cruises and a project that will be difficult to overcome.
Technologies and the environment
The crisis generated by the pandemic will lead to a rationalization of the offer and the companies that will resist will offer increasingly advanced ships. As Enzo Ferrari said for his custom-built cars the best ever built, always the next. Vago thinks so too: Each new ship pushes the boundaries of innovation and enriches our offer by introducing new and unique experiences for our guests and Virtuosa, for example, presents the world’s first humanoid bartender on a cruise ship. Shipowners have invested hundreds of millions to improve and reduce the impact on the environment and marine fauna. We received the 11 Golden Pearls certification from Bureau Veritas for its many innovative aspects including technologies to protect the environment and health and safety measures – argues the executive president – and Virtuosa the first cruise ship in the world to receive the Biorisk certification which recognizes its ability to mitigate and manage the risks of spreading infectious diseases among passengers. Our long-term goal is to create zero impact cruises and this is what we are working on today.
Msc Virtuosa – begins Leonardo Massa, head of the Italian market of MSC Cruises, the most important in Europe – will enter service on April 16 with four Mediterranean cruises of 3, 4 and 10 nights that will depart from Genoa and we are happy about this. because it is a double boast for Italy, which was the first country to implement our protocol and to restart the sector. Then the flagship will move to Kiel, Germany, where it will begin its itineraries in Northern Europe. The new boat very similar to Grandiosa, the first ship to have resumed sailing this summer. We have successfully hosted almost 40 thousand passengers up to now thanks to the protocol – continues Massa, managing director since 2013 – and the switchboard phones have returned to ring in an encouraging way. We want to anticipate the future and not suffer it and, for this reason, the offer of new ships will not stop with the arrival of Virtuosa. Of course, it represents an important step in our growth strategy but it will not be the only one. For example, Seashore will also arrive in August, the largest ship ever built in Italy at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, which will bring the company’s fleet to 19 units and, by 2025, we will launch another four. Introducing thousands of beds to the market should take away the sleep of top managers like Massa who, on the other hand, show great confidence. The “bubble” of health protection that we have created thanks to our protocols – he explains – means that people can safely re-appropriate entertainment. Being able to choose which restaurant to go to for dinner, whether to go dancing or to the theater are options that the pandemic has taken away from us and are unthinkable in our cities while on board is possible because everyone has to overcome a tampon before getting on and then have to repeat it after four days. . Then the guests know they have to pay small duties such as wearing the mask in public spaces or maintaining a distance in restaurants. I like to think that cruises – a sector that in Italy is worth 14 billion euros and employs 120 thousand people – will also be the driving force for other sectors that are still at stake today. Considerations that will ensure that cruises will be increasingly popular this summer even by those who have never considered them. I am optimistic – says Massa – because we can show guests that they would never have imagined getting on board what we are capable of doing. Summer destinations could reward Italy: I imagine it will be a summer of proximity and, therefore, the Mediterranean area can have an extraordinary opportunity to relaunch.