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UK naming for MSC Bellissima, ship to debut voice-activated digital assistant

PHOTO: Mary Bond
Sharing news about MSC Bellissima at The Gherkin in London L-R: MSC Cruises' Luca Pronzati, chief innovation officer; Gianni Onorato ceo and Antonio Paradiso, md UK & Ireland
MSC Cruises will introduce a voice-activated digital personal assistant as a new feature of MSC for Me, to debut on 2019's MSC Bellissima, which—just announced—will be named at Southampton on March 2 next year.

The digital personal assistant will harness artificial intelligence to communicate, 'learn' and intelligently predict passengers' needs in order to provide relevant suggestions.

The technology is being developed in partnership with Harman International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics.

'Imagine getting instant and personalized information like cruise events, entertainment options [and] journey updates or just playing your favorite music by a simple voice command. Harman is excited to bring this innovation to MSC Cruises,' said Sanjay Dhawan, president, Harman Connected Services and Harman chief technology officer.

This latest enhancement to MSC for Me has been conceptualized by MSC Cruises’ business innovation team led by Luca Pronzati, chief innovation officer, and Harman, whose experts in voice-enabled technology have developed audio solutions for technology leaders such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft. The new collaboration springs from a long-standing relationship between MSC Cruises and Samsung.

Unlike other home digital assistants that rely on cloud-based programs with Internet-connected devices or applications, this digital offering will be designed around a ship-based solution, customized especially for MSC Cruises passengers.

They will be able to communicate with the digital personal assistant in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Brazilian Portuguese and Mandarin. The service will launch on MSC Bellissima but is planned to become available on all future new ships, and the company intends to introduce the feature on the rest of its fleet.

MSC Bellissima, under construction at STX France in Saint-Nazaire, represents a further evolution of the Meraviglia series, following 2017's MSC Meraviglia.

The newbuild will feature two new shows from Cirque du Soleil at Sea, an 80mtr long LED Sky Screen, two new dining concepts - L’Atelier Bistrot, with terrace seating so that guests can enjoy the promenade, as well as the street-food-inspired Market Street, serving throughout the day and into the evening.

'We have chosen to host the christening of MSC Bellissima in Southampton as a demonstration of our continued commitment to growth in the UK and Ireland,' MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato said at a trade partner and media event at the top of London’s The Gherkin building on Wednesday. 'This is a truly beautiful ship, worthy of the name Bellissima, and this christening will be a truly beautiful moment for MSC Cruises and the UK.'

The ship will remain in Southampton for three days, giving the opportunity for over 3,000 UK and Irish travel partners and guests to experience the latest addition to the MSC Cruises fleet.

Antonio Paradiso, md MSC Cruises UK & Ireland, commented: ‘MSC Cruises is  going from strength to strength in the UK and Ireland, and the fact that such a high profile event is being held here is a signal of the importance of the UK and Ireland to MSC Cruises. This is an opportunity for us to thank our travel agents for helping us expand our distribution and reach new audiences.’

In 2019, MSC Preziosa will spearhead MSC Cruises’ ex-UK sailings, a larger ship than the current seasonally deployed MSC Magnifica, Paradiso noted. He said ‘2018 is set to be our most successful yet for the UK market which has seen numbers increasing 50%.’

Following her UK showcase, MSC Bellissima will depart from Southampton headed for Genoa to spend an inaugural season in the Western Mediterranean before deploying to the Arabian Gulf for the winter, with calls at Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Muscat and Khasab.