| It helps to be local: MSC Crociere, the largest independently-owned
cruise line in Europe, got a special dispensation from the mayor of Venice,
Italy to celebrate the launch of MSC Musica last night in an elaborate
christening ceremony just east of the iconic St. Mark's. |
The ceremony, which lasted about an hour, was light on the speeches
(refreshingly short) and heavy on spectacular entertainment. Masked,
wigged and costumed hosts, in heavy brocaded Renaissance-era attire, greeted guests in the hot Venetian sun. Once attendees were seated, renowned Italian bandleader Demo Morselli entertained with some rousing musical numbers, while Cirque de Soleil-style acrobats and dancers provided the gasp-inspiring visual show. Most were dressed in pale baby-blue costumes, some were on impossibly high stilts, and a huge industrial crane lifted one of the dancers hundreds of feet in the air via suspension wires.
Hundreds of onlookers watched from their own apartment windows, or from
the quay alongside the ship. The invited attendees included members of the worldwide press, travel professionals, Italian dignitaries and entertainment
Sophia Loren had been selected as the godmother of both of MSC's
previous new-built ships, MSC Lirica in 2003 and
MSC Opera in 2004. Her selection as godmother for this, the third new ship in the fleet, is not surprising. In fact, she will most likely remain godmother emeritus of all of MSC's new ships. The iconic Italian beauty (at 71, she's as gorgeous as she ever was) has such class and style that she epitomizes everything that MSC Crociere aspires to present to the world. The company sums up its passenger cruise product with three words. "Beautiful. Passionate. Italian." Ms. Loren can be summed up using the same three words.
Introduced to the tune of "Mambo Italiano," she mounted the stage
flanked by Aponte, MSC's owner, on her right, and Captain Ferdinando Ponti, the ship's Master, on her left. Ms. Loren, in a bodice-hugging glittering black
gown, was greeted by the predominantly Italian crowd with a standing ovation. After being presented with a bouquet of fresh flowers by a young girl, Ms. Loren took the podium to thank the crowd, congratulate MSC and its
officers, and in Italian, utter the words "May God bless this ship and all who
sail in her." She then walked a few feet to the ribbon that suspended the
magnum of customized French Champagne above the name of the ship at the bow, and ceremoniously cut the ribbon.
As soon as the bottle broke against the hull, huge amounts of confetti
and crepe paper streamers were blown over the heads of the people in the
crowd, and the customary fire boat, located just to the west of the ship,
started its cascade, guided by the tune "I Love You, Baby." As the singer
belted out the words "It's just too good to be true," the water show from the
fireboat was visible through the swirling baby-blue, white and silver confetti,
dancing against the setting sun over St. Mark's Square. The appreciative
crowd went wild.
The ship, the largest in MSC's fleet at 89,000 tons and capable of carrrying 2,550 passengers, will be the flagship of the line's aggressive new-build program. Two sister ships, MSC Orchestra and MSC Poesia, will follow in 2007 and 2008 (there's an option for a fourth in this class as well). In 2008 and 2009, two additional ships will join the fleet, MSC Fantasia and MSC Serenata, both coming in at a whopping 138,000 tons, size enough for 3,300 passengers.
MSC Musica begins its year-round schedule of Venice to Istanbul
roundtrip cruises on July 1, 2006, with calls at ports such as at Bari, Italy; Katakolon, Greece; Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey; and Dubrovnik, Croatia.