MSC Virtuosa christened in Dubai

At a ceremony in Dubai to name a second new ship this month, MSC Cruises hinted at wider growth in the Persian Gulf and Middle Eastern region. 

The 6,334-passenger MSC Virtuosa was named Saturday by Italian actress Sophia Loren, godmother to all of MSC’s ships. The ship will be based in the United Arab Emirates port through March. The Virtuosa departed on its first Gulf sailing on Nov. 28 to Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island and Doha. 

MSC said it chose Dubai to host the ceremony to in recognition of the line’s long-term commitment to the UAE and the wider Middle East market.

“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,” Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC’s executive chairman, said in a statement.

“Cruising is an integral part of the UAE’s dynamic tourism industry, 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 vacation option to support the further growth of the tourism industry locally.”

The Virtuosa is the only MSC ship to offer the new MSC Starship Club, which has a futuristic humanoid robotic bartender named Rob.  It is the 17th ship that Loren has named for MSC, including the MSC Seashore, which was christened Nov. 18 at the line’s private Bahamian island. 

“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,” said Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, in a statement.

MSC took delivery of the Virtuosa last February. The ship sailed in Europe this summer.

MSC this year also planted its flag in Saudi Arabia, where it began launching cruises from Jeddah in July.

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