The G8, or "Group of Eight," is a group of heads of state and government from eight countries -- France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada -- that meets several times a year to discuss global issues such as foreign affairs, financial affairs, trade, justice, security, the environment, agriculture and labor. The organization actually formed in the early 70's as G6 (all of the above minus Russia and Canada, which joined later). The country holding the G8 Presidency, which rotates yearly among the countries, is responsible for hosting and organizing the meetings that pave the way for the yearly Summit, and the three-day Summit itself. This year, it's Italy's turn.
Aside from the fact that MSC Cruises is based in Italy, why was MSC Fantasia chosen to house G8 participants? One of this year's hot topics is climate change, and because of that, the Italian government has committed to planning a Summit that will have zero impact on the environment. To that end, the selection of MSC Fantasia is apropos: MSC's fleet is one of the greenest afloat, and MSC Fantasia in particular debuted in December 2008 with state-of-the-art energy-saving systems. For example, air-conditioning is regulated by a digital device that takes into account whether the windows and doors are open or closed. Also, its hull is painted with a non-toxic substance that helps lower carbon dioxide emissions through the reduction of fuel.
La Maddalena, the host town for the actual three-day Summit, was also chosen with climate change in mind. Scientists and naturalists frequent the coastline of Sardinia to study its rich ecosystem -- animal and plant species native to the Mediterranean but now extinct elsewhere. The ship will be moored somewhere off the coast of Sardinia for the Summit, which is taking place 8 to 10 July. According to the official Web site for G8, the Civil Protection Department, MSC Cruises and Navy experts are currently surveying the area between La Maddalena and the island of Santo Stefano for a precise mooring point.
At this point, we don't know whether Obama et al will be ensconced in the ship's exclusive, cozy suite complex known as the Yacht Club (though we have to imagine they won't be relegated to inside cabins). An MSC spokesperson in the U.K. could not give any more details "due to security reasons," and could only confirm that the line will indeed host the G8 Summit.
--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor, with reporting by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor