MSC Cruises sets sail tonight as UK’s first ship to return to the ocean

MSC Cruises unveil their incredible Starship Club

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Queues of excited passengers could be seen this evening as they were welcomed back onboard the MSC Virtuosa. The MSC Cruise ship is the first in the UK to restart sailing, departing on its maiden voyages out of Southampton around the British Isles.

It is the first time in 14 months the ship has welcomed back UK passengers.

Around 1,000 guests will depart on the inaugural journey, which is set to stop at the picturesque isle of Portland, as well as boasting astonishing ocean views and plenty of onboard frivolities to be had.

Ahead of its departure, members of the public gathered around the waters of Southampton to see off the 181,541 gross ton, 1,085ft-long ship sail away.

Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, said, “Dedicating our brand-new ship MSC Virtuosa for UK cruises this summer bears testament to our absolute commitment to the local market and truly shines a light on its ever-growing importance to us.”

He continued: “We are, of course, also incredibly proud that MSC Virtuosa’s first-ever sailing heralds the resumption of cruise holidays from British ports and we would like to thank the UK Government and other local authorities for their support to us and the overall cruise industry to allow domestic cruising to restart.”

Both vaccinated and non-vaccinated guests are welcome onboard, thanks to rigorous testing procedures at embarkation.

This is just one of the cruise lines health and safety protocol developed by a Blue Ribbon Panel of experts.

It was this health and safety expertise that helped MSC Cruises resume sailings in the Mediterranean onboard MSC Grandiosa in August 2020.

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“Our shipping prowess led the way last August with our initial restart in the Mediterranean thanks to a new health and safety protocol designed to protect our guests and crew, as well as the destinations that our ships visit, that effectively set a new standard for our industry,” said Mr Onorato.

“The sailing today from Southampton is a great step forward for both MSC Cruises and the British cruise sector.”

MSC Virtuosa is the cruise line’s newest ship and boasts an array of high-tech amenities including the MSC Starship Club – a unique cocktail bar with its own robotic bartender.

Rob, as the cyborg is known, shakes up a choice of beverage for guests at their request.

The ship also features its own indoor promenade featuring an array of restaurants and shops.

It is also home to “the largest shopping area at sea on any cruise ship” boasting over 250 brands.

There are five unique swimming pools onboard, as well as a selection of family and children’s entertainment, and the luxurious Aurea Spa.

As it welcomed back UK guests, MSC Virtuosa will keep guests dazzled with a number of full-scale theatre shows and a selection of live DJs.

Following the maiden voyage, MSC Virtuosa will return to Southampton on May 24 ready for guests to disembark and 1,000 more holidaymakers to board.

As well as the series of three- and four-night mini cruises, MSC Virtuosa will offer seven-night cruises from June 5.

The week-long sailings include calls at Portland and Belfast in Northern Ireland, as well as offering multiple ports of embarkation including Liverpool and Greenock, close to Glasgow, Scotland, on top of Southampton.

Antonio Paradiso, managing director of MSC Cruises UK & Ireland said: “Today is a very special day as we welcome guests back on board for a much-deserved holiday and the maiden voyage of MSC Virtuosa.

“Embarking 1,000 returning as well as new guests directly in Southampton allows them to explore the best the British Isles has to offer in a safe and convenient way.

“Our new flagship offers a whole host of brand new facilities, plus everything they have come to expect from a cruise with us, we are sure this will be a summer holiday to remember.”

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