MSC Cruises new flagship will make its debut in less than a month in Southampton offering round-Britain cruises for Brits.
The 6,300-passenger ship, which debuts in the U.K. on May 20, is MSC's newest, biggest and splashiest vessel yet, with an array of the most popular venues and attractions taken from the rest of the fleet -- plus a few new highlights.
MSC Virtuosa's launch will also mark the restart of cruising in the U.K., and will be followed by at least 15 other ships over the course of the summer all offering round-Britain cruises.
Here are nine reasons why we're excited about MSC Virtuosa.
May 20, 2021 will be a milestone for U.K. cruising -- after more than a year, a cruise ship will set sail from a U.K. port with fare-paying passengers onboard. It is the result of quiet lobbying by CLIA (the Cruise Lines International Association) and a willingness by U.K. government officials to engage with the cruise sector (unlike in the US, where the CDC refuses to even consider a restart), and it means the U.K. -- along with Greece and parts of the Caribbean -- will be the centre for cruising in 2021.
We love brand new ships, and pre-pandemic, we were privileged enough to attend many ship launches. Although this won't be an actual christening (unlike sister, MSC Bellissima, that was christened in the U.K.), it is a fresh debut and a big one -- MSC Virtuosa will become the line's new flagship -- and one of the largest cruise ships in the world, tying ninth place with sister-ship MSC Grandiosa, which is currently sailing around Italy.
A combination of brand new features (listed below) coupled with past MSC favourites, and the opportunity to be one of the first to step onboard is a huge privilege -- and we can't wait. Also, basing such a large ship in the U.K. shows a huge belief in the resilience of cruising and the British cruise market.
MSC Virtuosa debuts the first humanoid robotic bartender at sea and the main feature of new-to-the-line MSC Starship Club (see below).
Rob (short for Robot) is a humanoid robot with different facial expressions, a voice, and the ability to move his arms, body and head in a natural way. It's significantly different from, say, Royal Caribbean's Bionic Bbar, which features robotic arms that make drinks.
Rob can speak eight languages, prepares signature cocktails with each served in custom-designed futuristic glass, and according to MSC: "Rob has a clear personality that evolves with the surrounding settings and atmospheres. He uses his LED face to convey emotion so that guests can enjoy his performance whilst they sip on their cocktail."
We'll drink to that!
The Starship Club includes 3D holograms, an immersive digital art wall and a 12-seater infinity digital interactive table -- and of course, Rob the Robotic Bartender.
The club is designed to give passengers a fully immersive space-style bar experience at sea.
According to the line: "This latest innovation takes cutting-edge robotics and digital technologies to deliver a futuristic, immersive entertainment lounge, completely re-imagining the traditional bar experience to literally transport guests to another world."
MSC Virtuosa has five main dining restaurants and five specialty restaurants, including two new speciality restaurants: Indochine and HOLA Tacos & Cantina. Indochine brings together savoury Vietnamese classics and gives them a contemporary French twist. At HOLA Tacos & Cantina, MSC Cruises introduces its first street food dining concept, offering Latin American and Mexican inspired dishes -- plus a selection of tequilas and mezcals to wash them down.
Two MSC favourites -- Butcher's Cut and Kaito Teppanyaki -- make a welcome return; as does two-time World Champion in Pastry, Jean-Philippe Maury, who returns with Chocolat & Café and Crêpes & Gelato, along with his very own custom chocolate creations.
MSC Virtuosa boasts 11 boutiques with 250 brands including a logo shop, duty free shops and shops selling high-end items such as handbags and designer sunglasses, spread over 1,168 square metres of dedicated space -- the largest retail area at sea. The line's award-winning retail offering also includes the MSC Foundation shop which offers a selection of specially crafted, high quality, sustainable pieces made from recycled plastic.
The MSC Yacht Club is the line's "ship within a ship" concept which takes up three decks at the front of the ship, giving the best views onboard across the bow and out to sea. The all-suite complex includes two MSC Yacht Club Royal Suites with a private balcony whirlpool bath, a huge lounge, with drinks and nibbles served all day; the exclusive Top Sail restaurant, serving gourmet meals; and the Top Sail Lounge and private pool and spacious sun deck, complete with bar and grill.
MSC Virtuosa includes a 4D Theater where you can don a pair of 3D glasses and battle zombies, visit a spooky theme park and ride a virtual rollercoaster -- and it's just one of a number of attractions onboard. The ship also has an immersive Assassins Creed video game (where you become the avatar); two simulated F1 racing cars, two bowling lanes, and a video games arcade.
The amount of entertainment on offer for kids of all ages is truly mind-boggling. As well as the games arcade, MSC has teamed up with LEGO to create a brick-themed kids area with numerous age-appropriate rooms across 700 square metres of dedicated space. As well as a mountain of LEGO, expect a science lab, a theatre, a dedicated baby play area and a brand-new teens club, which includes a Teens Lab, a totally immersive, tech-filled, modern room just for teenagers. There is also a top deck water park with numerous waterslides and a splash area for the little ones.
MSC Virtuosa makes its debut this May, and Cruise Critic will be onboard. Stay tuned for more content direct from the ship.
Updated April 26, 2021