I’ve always said that working in the travel industry means no two days are ever the same. I know this sounds really cliché but the past few weeks have proven my theory! Last month I was kitted out in full on fluorescent 80’s gear reviewing a music cruise around the Med, a few weeks ago the four of us were invited to check out a campsite in France followed by a very swish hotel in the Isles of Scilly. And to top the last couple of months off, last week I left my boys at home and popped across to France for a few days to be one of the first people to explore the decks of MSC’s future flagship, the MSC Bellissima.
As a huge cruising fan you can imagine my delight when invited to visit the Bellissima, currently being built at a shipyard not too far from Nantes, and follow her journey from construction through to her christening in March via my role as co editor at Cruising with Kids. I was particularly excited as several other major ship building milestones for MSC – the naming and first steel cutting of their brand new ship and a traditional coin ceremony for the Grandiosa were taking place on the same day… For a ship geek like me it really doesn’t get any more exciting than this!
Three years working at sea and yet this was my first time in a ship yard. I was travelling with Antonio Paradiso, the UK Managing Director of MSC, his PR and marketing team and a small group of cruise writers, all passionate about the industry and all eager to get a first glimpse of the mega ship we would be following the progress of for the next nine months.
Over dinner on our first night we excitedly spoke about what we expected to see the next day, how it would feel to see the Bellissima unfurnished and sitting in a dry dock and how exciting it would be to get up close to her huge propellers before they were submersed under water for the first time in preparation for floating out of the dry dock for her sea trials.
I’ve spoken before about the incredible feeling when embarking a cruise ship. I honestly don’t think there is a feeling quite like a cruise ship towering over you as you walk up the gangway. Particularly a ship as big as the Bellissima which when finished will accommodate over 5,700 passengers and 1,700 crew.
Being one of the very first to step onto the MSC Bellissima, who up until this moment had only been seen by the construction crew, was a truly special moment and one I will remember forever.
We were met on the quayside and guided around the ship by a few of the French construction team. They proudly pointed out the main guest areas and shared with us the vision of what she’ll look like when fully kitted out and ready to join the MSC fleet as the largest of 16 ships at the end of February.
I had known the Bellissima was still in her fairly early stages, approx 45-50% complete, so I wasn’t expecting to see the Swarovski crystal staircases that I fell in love with during my day onboard the MSC Preziosa…
I had however expected her to have cabins and certainly hadn’t expected to be able to see all of her electrical wiring and plumbing. It was such an eye-opening experience. I have a new-found respect for the ship building industry and honestly cannot begin to imagine how they project manage a ship build of this size.
*If you look on the photo above featuring the outside of the Bellissima you’ll see that she doesn’t currently have cabins. I found it fascinating to discover that they’ll be manufactured as a self-contained module, transported up the side of the ship via a special lift and slotted into place over the next few weeks… isn’t this incredible?
I spent the entire time onboard the Bellissima open-mouthed, giddy like a big kid and taking hundreds of photos. Of course there were no lifts yet installed and so I was grateful to be wearing flat shoes (and a rather attractive hard hat!) to explore her 18 decks.
My favourite spot onboard was overlooking the pool deck and picturing what she’ll be like when finished, with passengers laying out on sun loungers soaking up the sun and enjoying a cocktail…
It wasn’t until I spoke to Antonio, the MD, who pointed out that Bellissima will be fully ready in just 260 days that it really sunk in how much work is involved in such a short space of time. It’s incredible to think that in just 8.5 months the construction crew will add 20 bars, 10 restaurants, theatres, the cruise industry’s first ever in-cabin digital personal assistant to all 2,440 of her cabins, transform the two-deck inside promenade into a sophisticated 80-metre-long LED dome plus MUCH, MUCH more. No small feat as I’m sure you’ll agree!
What facilities will be onboard the MSC Bellissima for kids?
As a mum I was most eager to find out what facilities will be onboard the Bellissima for kids and so I jumped at the opportunity to ask Antonio to reveal all…
After exploring inside the Bellissima, our group disembarked and went underneath her hull. It was quite an emotional experience to walk under a vessel of this size and touch her propellers… a photo opportunity that very few of her passengers will ever get.
The last event of the day was witnessing the Bellissima touch water for the first time. I had imagined the dry dock wall dropping away and the water gushing to greet her. (Much to the amusement of everyone I admitted this to. I really do need to learn when to keep my mouth shut!) Of course this isn’t what happened at all, the wall stayed in place but creaked open slightly to allow a steady flow of water to surround her hull whilst we watched sipping on champagne and eating canapés. It was the perfect end to a thoroughly memorable day.
It was really strange to think that the next time I’ll see the Bellissima she’ll be berthed in Southampton getting ready for her three-day Christening celebrations and having passengers sleep onboard her for the first time.
Short video featuring my day at the STX ship yard…
The Cruising with Kids team and I will continue to monitor Bellissima’s progress in the ship yard and share news with you here and on the Cruising with Kids website. We will also be attending her christening in Southampton on the 2nd March so watch this space!
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Disclaimer – Via my role at Cruising with Kids I’ve been invited to be an ambassador for the MSC Bellissima. All words and opinions are, as always, my own.