A star-studded ceremony marked the christening Sunday of MSC Preziosa in the fleet's Italian homeport of Genoa.
Film star Sophia Loren, the godmother of the entire MSC Cruises fleet, christened Preziosa against a backdrop of music conducted by Ennio Morricone, who has composed some of the most recognisable film scores including "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." MSC CEO Pierfrancesco Vago said: "(Preziosa) will become a symbol of the cruise industry, which has continued to grow despite of the recession. With the introduction of Preziosa, MSC is now the third-largest cruise company in the world."
During the event, Preziosa was flanked by sister ships Splendida and Opera. Including their passengers and crew -- and the 2,000 international guests invited to the ceremony -- more than 10,000 people watched the christening, which ended with a spectacular fireworks display.
The 139,400-ton vessel, with 1,751 cabins in nine categories -- and a capacity for 3,502 passengers -- is the 12th ship in the MSC Cruises fleet and the fourth in the flagship Fantasia class. Unique features include the 120 metre Vertigo -- the longest single-rider waterslide on the waves -- a children's aqua park themed around pirates, adult-only sundeck and two Eataly restaurants, the first marine partnership with the Italian chain that promotes the slow-food philosophy. The new extended shopping area and Diamond Bar and Library is a departure from the other Fantasia-class ships.
Preziosa has seven restaurants, 12 bars and lounges, four pools, an Aurea spa and the members-only MSC Yacht Club, a "ship within a ship" with 69 cabins, 24-hour concierge, butler service, a private pool and lounge.
Founded in 2003, MSC Cruises has invested €6 billion in its fleet. It carried 1.4 million passengers last year and has set a target of 1.6 million in 2013.
--by Jeanine Williamson, Cruise Critic Contributor