French President Emmanuel Macron helped Zoe Africa Vago, the daughter of MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago and Alexa Aponte-Vago, snip the ribbon to smash a Balthazar of Champagne on the hull.
Macron also spoke with workers at the yard, which is partly owned by the French state. Italy's Fincantieri is in the process of acquiring a 66.66% stake in STX France from STX Europe.
The 171,598gt MSC Meraviglia, with capacity for 5,714 passengers, is both the biggest cruise ship ever built by a European owner and the largest cruise newbuild to enter service this year. It stretches 315 meters in length, 43 meters at the beam and 65 meters high.
'MSC Meraviglia’s coming into service marks a key milestone in the history and future of our company,' Pierfrancesco Vago said. It is the first of the six new ships due to enter service for MSC Cruises between 2017 and 2020.
Four of those are being built by STX France, reinforcing a long-standing partnership that has already produced all 13 vessels for MSC Cruises, fueling the company's 800% growth from 2003 to 2013.
Vago acknowledged the work of STX France and MSC Cruises' newbuild team in producing MSC Meraviglia. He described a 'galvanized team' of 1,700 workers a month—3,000 a month during peak periods—and more than 400 suppliers and subcontractors involved over the past three years.
For his part, STX France ceo Laurent Castaing noted MSC Meraviglia benefited from research and development advances under the 'Ship of the Future' program supported by ADEME.
'This prototype is a great achievement that we can all be proud of and which allows us to look confidently at the next three ships,' Castaing said.
At a flag ceremony where the shipyard's pennant was lowered and MSC Cruises' flag was raised, Castaing formally handed MSC Meraviglia over to MSC Cruises owner Gianluigi Aponte, who then gave command of the ship to Capt. Raffaele Pontecorvo.
MSC Meraviglia's naming festivities are scheduled for Saturday in Le Havre. The ship will sail its inaugural season in the western Mediterranean.