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Jubilation in Dubai at MSC Virtuosa naming as Vago and Onorato send messages of hope

Clockwise from left: singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man, actress and ship godmother Sophia Loren, fireworks explode after the ribbon-cutting
The official naming of MSC Virtuosa took place at Dubai's Port Rashid on Saturday with godmother Sophia Loren leading the ceremonial ribbon-cutting and MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago sending a message of optimism to the cruise community alongside the line's CEO, Gianni Onorato.

‘We are custodians of a 300-year history,’ exclaimed Vago as he highlighted the achievements of the Aponte family in establishing MSC Cruises. ‘We continue to promote the UAE around the world … We employ hundreds of people in the UAE … The pandemic did not take away our vision of long-term growth,’ he added.


Executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago

Growth strategy

Vago thanked the UAE for its ‘precious support,’ with MSC Virtuosa set to depart on its maiden Gulf voyage on November 28. He added, ‘Port Rashid is today a home to us and will always be.’

Throughout winter 2022/23, MSC Cruises will base MSC World Europa – the line’s first LNG-powered vessel and the largest to join the fleet – in the Gulf Region, adding additional guest capacity with a second ship serving the cruise market.


His remarks were followed by Onorato, who reflected on the difficulties that have arisen as a result of COVID-19 and expressed his views on overcoming coronavirus-related industry challenges: ‘We need to be confident and go on, all together,’ he said. On the UAE, he stated, ‘Our presence here will not stop; we will attract more international visitors.’ 


CEO Gianni Onorato

UAE's largest naming ceremony

The countdown to the UAE’s largest naming ceremony – held in partnership with Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism and DP World – was initiated by star of the silver screen Loren as she took to the stage to officially name her 17th MSC Cruises ship.

Surrounded by officers of MSC Virtuosa, the actress cut the ceremonial ribbon, silhouetted by fireworks. 


Actress and ship godmother, Sophia Loren

His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, chairman of Dubai Council for Border Crossing Points Security also made an apperance, following a personal tour of the ship before the festivities began.

Sustainability and entertainment

Highlights of the ceremony included the Dubai Police marching band followed by juggling, spinning and gymnastics performed by MSC Cruises’ entertainment team. An artist took to the stage to create a montage of scenes that resonate with Dubai, made using only sand, as Daniela Picco, executive director, MSC Foundation said, ‘We’re in a race against time in ocean pollution … and we have to act, before it’s too late.’


Dubai Police marching band

Port development

UAE TV personality Omar Butti, master of ceremonies, introduced Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, group chairman and CEO, DP World who said, ‘To ensure that the port continues to be an integral contributor to the UAE’s economy and a significant economic pillar of Dubai, we are working to enhance its capabilities.

‘Our sole aim is to reinforce its status as a preferred recreational facility that represents Dubai’s rich cultural heritage. Through our efforts, we will strive to ensure that the Emirate continues to gain recognition globally as a world-class cruise destination.’

The port expects to recieve 126 calls and over 500,000 cruise visitors for the upcoming 2021/22 cruise season.

Helal Saeed Almarri, director general, Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism, added, ‘Dubai continues to chart a course forward as ... the cruise capital of the Middle East …

‘With Dubai continuing to welcome international tourists, this event will build on the momentum generated by the recent launch of the new cruise season, further fuelling growth during this landmark year for Dubai featuring Expo 2020 and celebrations surrounding the UAE Golden Jubilee, and beyond.'

A performance by singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man closed the event. 

PHOTO: ANTHONY DEVLIN, GETTY IMAGESScreenshot 2021-11-29 at 18.00.14.png

Rag'n'Bone Man

MSC Virtuosa is set to serve the Arabian Sea until March 2022 from its base in Dubai, offering passengers the opportunity to visit Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island and Doha, Qatar.