(4:40 p.m. GMT) -- MSC Cruises took delivery of MSC Bellissima at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in France today, where two other other MSC ships are being built.
The shipyard officially "handed over" the 4,500-passenger ship with a ceremonial lowering of the yard's flag, followed by the raising of the MSC Cruises flag.
Following a blessing of MSC Bellissima, godmother Ella Aponte -- granddaughter of Gianluigi Aponte, MSC's founder and chairman -- cut a ribbon to successfully smash a bottle of Champagne against the vessel's hull.
Passengers watched from a marquee erected quayside, along with executives from the cruise line and the shipyard, as well as local government officials.
The ship will be officially "named" by godmother Sophia Loren at a ceremony in Southampton on Saturday (March 2).
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Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises' Executive Chairman, said: "Today’s delivery marks another chapter in the story of our partnership with Chantiers de l’Atlantique. Together we have already brought to life 14 highly-innovative cruise ships, paving the way for our Company's initial growth. Many more will be built together over the coming years to further deepen the reach of our fleet."
He also pointed out that two other ships -- MSC Grandiosa and MSC Virtuosa -- were currently being built at the shipyard, the latter of which had a coin ceremony this morning. MSC Grandiosa will launch this October and MSC Virtuosa will launch early next year. Both are "Meraviglia Plus" class ships, and sisters to MSC Bellissima.
MSC Bellissima is the first MSC Cruises ship to feature Zoe, the world’s first virtual personal cruise assistant, which has been added to the app "MSC for Me". The voice-enabled virtual personal assistant can be found in every cabin and can answer hundreds of questions about the cruise.
With today's delivery, MSC Bellissima has become the fourth ship to join MSC Cruises' fleet in less than two years. Another 13 cruise ships are due to join its fleet by 2027. These include four World Class mega cruise ships capable of welcoming nearly 7,000 guests as well as four smaller ships that will serve the ultra-luxury segment.
This evening MSC Bellissima will set sail for Southampton, arriving Friday morning ahead of Saturday's ceremony. On March 4 the ship will depart on its maiden voyage, heading to Genoa, Italy, where it will spend its inaugural season, offering Western Mediterranean cruises.
In November 2019, it will reposition to the Gulf, with weekly sailings out of Dubai. In spring 2020 MSC Bellissima will be deployed to Asia.