MSC gathered key cruise agents and travel writers for the christening of their new MSC Preziosa in Genoa, a ship originally commissioned by Colonel Ghadaffi. Sophia Loren, looking amazing at 79, launched the ship at a spectacular opening ceremony in Genoa at 9.36pm local time on Saturday night. The buildup included a fabulous three-way foghorn and light show performance by three giant MSC cruise ships docked opposite each other, Opera, Splendida and the new Preziosa. Cruise line CEO Pierfrancisco Vago declared that, with the launch of Preziosa MSC, MSC is now the third biggest cruise line on the world. “Last year we were put under a lot of pressure,” Vago said, “but we weathered the storm. A storm happens but after the storm the glory of sailing returns.” It was the most spectacular and best organised of MSC’s ten launches to date, avoiding the drags and over-runs which dogged some previous launches, and included a full orchestra performance of eight familiar cinema music sets by Ennio Morricone, conducted by the man himself. After that it was time to party The 80-year-old founder President & owner of MSC Gianluigi Aponte was seen leaving Graffitti’s night club oat 2.40am. Many of the Irish lasted even later. Lorenzo Diamantini and Rebecca Kelly hosted an Irish delegation which included Mary McKenna of Touramerica, Dawn Conway of Thomas Cook and Alan Lynch of Cruisescapes.
The ship is as spectacular as the launch implied: it features the Doremi Castle Aqua Park and Vertigo, the longest water slide afloat, a truly psychadelic experience, as we found out (sadly, Travel Extra’s Eoghan Corry was beaten in the race to be first travel writer down the chute by English blogger David Monk). Features of the ship include the first two Eataly restaurants at sea, and a whole host of new features in the luxurious MSC Aurea Spa. Sophia Loren, looking splendid as always (at 79), performed the christening on Saturday. Our report on the event will be in our May issue. MSC say they aim to carry 1.6m passengers in 2013, having carried 1.4m in 2012. Picture shows Lorenzo Diamantini of MSC Cruises, Dawn Conway of Thomas Cook, Rebecca Kelly of MSC Cruises and Alan Lynch of Cruisescapes. . See more photos here.