Durban - It's been described as the launch of a lifetime - a superlative not wasted on MSC Cruises, which is noted for some of the more spectacular new ship-naming ceremonies. But this one, featuring the new 6300 passenger MSC Grandiosa, promises to outdo all others.
The activities will begin in Saint- Nazaire on France’s Brittany coast, where the ship has been built and is due to be handed over on the last day of this month. MSC Grandiosa will then move to a number of other ports before arriving in Hamburg in Germany for the official naming ceremony.
The new ship will remain in Hamburg between November 6 and 10, with the actual christening taking place on the evening of the 9th.
During the visits to all the ports, some 14000 travel agents and associated community, as well as other guests and stakeholders, will visit the ship to either stay overnight or take a look and experience all that it has to offer.
“We’ve designed an inaugural itinerary for the ship, with overnight stays in multiple ports, to enable as many travel agent partners as possible to stay on board or visit the ship in order to experience it first-hand,” said Achille Staiano, MSC Cruises vice-president of global sales.
“Looking ahead, as MSC Grandiosa will be one of the most environmentally-sound ships at sea, we’ll use the MSC Masters e-learning platform to educate our travel agent partners about our environmental stewardship practices and other environmental initiatives, allowing them to understand the latest advancements in environmental technology and practices - invaluable information for them and their customers.”
Staiano said the launching of MSC Grandiosa had been carefully designed to enable an extensive programme of activities, events and celebrations for the travel agency community and other guests.
During these events, seven “All Stars of the Sea” awards events will be held to recognise the efforts and achievements of travel agents from around the world, acknowledging MSC Cruises’ distribution in more than 80 countries.
During the ship’s stay in Hamburg, the port - which is on the Elbe River more than 100km from the North Sea, and Germany’s largest - will be lit at night in a blue light in 20 different locations of the large harbour, mixing industrial harbour light with graphic drawing.
The symbolic use of the colour blue is significant for the events, as it’s part of MSC Cruises’ livery as well as representing water to symbolise MSC Cruises’ long-standing commitment to the ocean.
The lighting will come from numerous small lights with low energy consumption in respect for the environment and the climate. The international light artist Michael Batz is to be responsible for these lit-up installations.
The launch of the ship is not only about razzmatazz and show. In respect for the environment and climate change sensitivities, MSC Grandiosa is equipped with two important technological innovations, including a selective catalytic reduction system which will decrease nitrogen oxide emissions by 90% and transform it into pure water and nitrogen.
The ship is also fitted with a state-of-the-art advanced wastewater treatment system that will lead to nearly zero impact on discharges and allow her to operate in delicate environments such as the Baltic Sea and Alaska.
Once in service, what can guests expect on their cruises?
Entertainment will include two new original shows from Cirque du Soleil, while the ship features a Mediterranean- style 111-metre indoor promenade lined with restaurants, bars and mall-style shopping. Above the promenade, a 93-metre-long LED Sky Screen will display atmospheric images and animations throughout the day and night.
For children on board, a kids’ area has been designed in partnership with Lego and Chicco.
Ships of this nature also often feature famous art and Grandiosa is no exception, with an immersive art experience in the L’Atelier Bistrot restaurant of 26 original etchings by French Impressionist Edgar Degas.
Another special feature of this ship is family group “cluster cabins”, where up to three cabins can be joined so larger families can stay together.
There’s an outdoor water park, a double-deck indoor amusement park, double-deck entertainment space and aft lounge, and up-to-the-minute wristband technology that enables passengers to book restaurants and spa treatments, make payments and even keep track of their children with geo-locate software.
MSC Grandiosa will begin her regular seven-night cruises in the Western Mediterranean from November 23 with six embarkation ports: Genoa, Civitavecchia (Rome), Palermo in Sicily, Valetta on Malta, Barcelona and Marseille.
Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to see this ship or any of the her future sisters arriving in Durban in the near future.
What we can look forward to, however, is the debut of the MSC Orchestra, which arrives in Durban on Saturday November 16 for an overnight stay, before departing the following day on her season of cruises, mostly to Mozambique destinations, although the New Year cruise involves a long cruise to Reunion and Mauritius.
MSC Orchestra is to be home-ported here in Durban until her departure in April.
She will also offer a short selection of cruises from Cape Town during January.
Terry Hutson keeps a beady eye on shipping activities, but particularly those related to Africa and South Africa. For shipping activities, news and schedules please contact him on 0823315775, email [email protected] or visit www.africaports.co.za for ships in port and other maritime-related data.