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View from the deck: new features on board MSC Cruises’ MSC Virtuosa

New specialty dining spot, Indochine
Several new design and dining concepts can be found on board MSC Cruises’ MSC Virtuosa, which Seatrade Cruise News witnessed first-hand at the start of its UK maiden season that began May 20.

Swarovski crystal staircase in MSC Yacht Club 

While Swarovski staircases have been a prominent feature of MSC Cruises' ships for more than 10 years, for the first time, the iconic style takes centre stage in MSC Virtuosa’s MSC Yacht Club. It is a further extension of the use of Swarovski on board the cruise line's vessels; MSC Yacht Club on board MSC Bellissima comprises Swarovski crystal-embellished wallpaper. 

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New specialty restaurant Indochine serves Vietnamese cuisine with a French twist. The menu includes vegetarian and vegan options, as well as dishes that can be served family-style, to share. Options include green papaya salad, beef bo bun, rice paper rolls and spring rolls, and traditional Vietnamese dessert, che ba mau.

The restaurant’s ample wine list features both New and Old World options, and there's a selection of signature tropical cocktails with some utilising plum wine - a popular Asian beverage.

Walls are decorated with South East Asia-inspired artwork; a feature wall showcases French-Asian art. 

Dark wood panelling, plush orange chairs and ambient lighting bring warmth to the space, which combines modern Parisian flair with the Orient. 

HOLA! Tacos & Cantina, another specialty restaurant unique to MSC Virtuosa, has a broad selection of mezcals and tequilas. Adorned with colourful papel picado, the street food-inspired American and Mexican dishes include tacos and nachos, beef empanadas, tamales, tortilla soup and vegetarian tacos. 

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MSC Starship Club 

With an LED-lit face, which can convey human-like expressions, humanoid bartender Rob serves space-inspired cocktails. Orders are processed via a touchscreen in the bar and the cocktail’s progress is shown on a digital monitor, which indicates when the drink has been prepared.

Rob communicates frequently while pouring, shaking, building and stirring beverages, using expressions like: ‘This cocktail will make you dance,’ ‘Did you know I’m the first robot bartender on planet Earth?’ and ‘I’m sure it was nice to meet me.’ A swipe of the MSC Cruise Card associated with the passenger placing the order signals Rob to relinquish hold of the drink once prepared, preventing confusion when multiple orders are placed.

Following the theme of ‘the spaceship of the future,’ 3D holograms and a 12-seater interactive table provide family entertainment; passengers are able to have their horoscopes read by answering questions and having their hand ‘scanned’ on the screen. Several interactive games can be played on the table, which offers a virtual spaceship tour, overview of spaceship building and the potential to manoeuvre asteroids and comets. 

The club was development over the course of six years in collaboration with robotics and automation experts.

A large bar area serving a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks lies adjacent to Rob’s cocktail platform. 

Passengers are permitted to keep the futuristic serving glasses.

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Health and safety measures 

All passengers were presented with a printed guide explaining symbols used on board to encourage compliance with health and safety measures. For instance, keeping one slot machine or one game open between players in gaming areas, footprint signs indicating the flow of traffic and ‘wear a mask’ prompts.  

Handwashing before entering the buffet was mandatory, with sinks placed in the entrance to the dining area before temperatures were read. 

Hand sanitizing stations were located frequently throughout the vessel. 

Food and drink orders were placed using QR codes and brought to tables to prevent passengers gathering at bar areas. 

Passengers were reminded throughout evening entertainment to wear the MSC Wristband at all times for speedy contact tracing, if warranted. 

Shore excursions were conducted in ‘bubbles,’ with passengers required to stay in the same seats and enter/exit the vehicle by seat order to prevent passengers having to pass one another. 

Additional highlights

MSC cruise director, Gene Young, made a speech in the theatre on May 27 thanking the NHS for supporting the UK’s cruise industry restart, and the team of 20 doctors who boarded the ship to vaccinate eligible crew. 

Jewelry store Effy opened on board the ship May 25.