For one special evening, the bustling French seaport of Marseille provided a perfect stage and backdrop for a Hollywood-style launch – the naming of the new MSC Divina, the latest jewel in the crown of MSC Cruises’ ever-expanding fleet.
And there in the limelight to cut the ribbon for the smashing of the champagne across the newcomer’s bow in suitably elegant style was glamorous international screen legend Sophia Loren, the fleet’s long-standing godmother.
The exclusive event included a gala dinner and entertainment from illustrious performers in the company of international celebrities, selected guests, media, authorities and the top management of MSC Cruises.
At the heart of the festivities was not only the addition of the 12th ship to the MSC Cruises’ ultra-modern fleet, but also the Mediterranean heritage of which the company is so proud. The event was themed Med with Passion.
Every detail of the on-board experience and the christening was carefully considered to reflect the colours, the scent, the history and the culture of the area, offering guests an unparalleled opportunity to enjoy the region’s celebrated values of authenticity and warm hospitality.
Continuing MSC Cruises’ tradition of naming its ships in different European ports, the family-owned company and the port paid homage to Marseille and its centuries-old customs.
“Since 2003 we have built our ships on French soil, partnering with the French shipyard and heavily contributing to employment and the economy,” said MSC Cruises CEO Pierfrancesco Vago, “Tonight in Marseille we will celebrate this long-established relationship, paying homage to the country’s oldest and biggest port at the christening ceremony of our latest flagship, MSC Divina,” Mr Vago summed up.
“We could not have found a better choice than Marseille, where the majority of our French guests embark all year round and where MSC ships will call 80 times in 2012, bringing over 280,000 international guests to the region,” he said.
“MSC has also worked alongside the French Government with substantial investment in the local cruise terminal and MSC Divina’s christening event is the perfect opportunity to show MSC guests the comfort and modernity of a state-of-the-art terminal, a fitting gateway to the unforgettable onboard experience they will discover.”
The Captens Aerobatic Display Team and the Breitling Jet Team opened the evening’s celebrations with two breathtakingly beautiful and skilful aerial shows.
These were followed by a performance from La Poulido de Gèmo, a local folk-group which strives to preserve regional traditions through dance, music and traditional costumes. Members of the group, both young and old, are all motivated by a love of Provence and its traditions, and this passion for their region shone through.
A dynamic eight-minute medley of MSC Divina’s theatrical shows then followed, complete with energetic dance, acrobatics, and an impressive 14-person pyramid.
Gerard Depardieu, one of Europe’s most accomplished actors and talented leading men, then narrated the evening’s events and the story of MSC Divina in his own entertaining manner.
The christening ceremony was of course attended by numerous international stars, including celebrated classical performer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Maxim Vengerov, a supporter of the MSC Cruises and UNICEF Get on Board for Children initiative which funds a project for education equality for disadvantaged children in Brazil and which has raised over 1 million euros to date.
Vengerov took to the stage with local children and released hundreds of UNICEF balloons to mark the special occasion. He then delighted guests with a surprise violin solo.
The event’s main artist, critically acclaimed Italian singer, pianist and composer Paolo Conte mesmerized the audience with his grainy, resonant voice and his colourful and dreamy compositions, evocative of jazz and blues.
The highlight of the evening was of course the floodlit ceremony and the parade of the ship’s officers, when the peerless Sophia Loren – treasured godmother of the MSC Cruises’ fleet – cut the ribbon and named MSC Divina to a crescendo of champagne, confetti, and sparkling fountains.
While this went on, an equally talented famous face was cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Lucky guests enjoyed two signature gourmet menus from French favourite Chef Christian Constant. Each traditional delicacy aimed to surprise and delight, and was prepared using the finest ingredients with a fresh new twist, just like MSC Divina herself.
MSC Divina offers seven-night East Mediterranean return cruises from Venice or Istanbul from $939 per person, twin share. Details, phone 1300 028502, www.msccruises.com.au