Inside the MSC Virtuosa on its maiden voyage with robot bartenders and water slides

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Inside the new MSC Virtuosa cruise ship on its maiden voyage from the beautiful cabins to the best must-see bars and restaurants while you’re on board for a cruise vacation

Dave Monk on the MSC Virtousa

The blazing heat and shimmering futuristic skyline of Dubai has certainly changed from the last time I boarded the new cruise ship MSC Virtuosa on her maiden voyage from Southampton.

It was in May when she was the first ship to resume sailing in British waters after the lockdown.

The joy of the passengers and crew to be back at sea as the huge Ikea store in the harbor slowly faded into the distance was tempered slightly by the quintessentially English spring weather – alongside the sun loungers there was no there were not just towels but blankets.

It seemed a world apart to me when I joined 800 guests, including royalty from the United Arab Emirates, for Virtuosa’s official christening on a balmy evening in Port Rashid.

Powerful beams of light crisscrossed the darkening sky before Italian superstar Sophia Loren cut the ribbon to send a bottle of sparkling wine crashing against the hull in an explosion of fireworks.

As the regular sponsor of MSC Cruises – this was her 17th ship – she has always been very busy. A week earlier, Sophia had done the honors for MSC Seashore in the Bahamas.

Next year will see two more additions to the fleet and in 2023 the company’s new luxury brand called Explora Journeys will launch the first of four ships.







Rag’n’Bone Man performed at the ceremony
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Virtuosa’s christening ceremony ended with a performance by Rag’n’Bone Man before guests returned on board for a celebratory dinner.

So what did I think of my second visit to the ship? It was great to see everything again, even though Rob the humanoid robot bartender didn’t seem to remember me. Brain is the size of a planet and serves a decent cocktail, but needs to hone his relationship skills.

This time I was finally able to try the slides as the weather in Dubai was much better than in the English Channel, although I didn’t have time during my short stay to take a dip in the five pools or the plethora. hot tubs. I also skipped fitness classes and rope walking and instead decided to relax and have a deeply relaxing Balinese massage.







The Atmosphere pool on board the MSC Virtuosa
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Around the ship there are many places to dine. Its 10 restaurants include a steakhouse, a new Mexican restaurant, teppanyaki / sushi, and Franco-Vietnamese dishes, as well as five main dining areas.

Having 21 bars and lounges to choose from is equally a challenge, but I headed for my favorite – a British-style pub where you can get a good pint of Newcastle Brown or Guinness.

For entertainment, as well as colorful shows, it is possible to shoot zombies in the 4D cinema, strike strikes in the bowling alley or drive a Formula 1 simulator.

A key feature of the ship is the 357-foot-long shopping and dining promenade, topped by an LED dome that constantly displays stunning images and videos.

The 19 decks contain 2,444 cabins, bringing its normal capacity to 4,888 passengers, although MSC likes to point out that if each berth were used, it could accommodate 6,334 vacationers as well as the 1,704 crew.

To escape the crowds, there’s always the option of the Yacht Club – a “ship within a ship” with its own restaurant and pool for Superior Suite guests.







One of the balcony cabins aboard the MSC Virtuosa
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As a family business, based in Switzerland, MSC Cruises is very committed to multigenerational cruising with a typical pan-European atmosphere and there are clubs for children, from toddlers to teenagers.

Next year the line will feature the MSC World Europa, powered by liquefied natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel. Bosses hope to eventually replace that with biogas made from rotting food and have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.







Steal the robot bartender at the Starship Club
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In April, MSC Virtuosa will return to Southampton for a series of cruises to Norway, the Baltic States and the Mediterranean. Prior to that, he offered weeklong cruises in the Persian Gulf. But as I prepared to leave my cabin in Dubai, I could see from my balcony the former Cunard QE2 ship, now a stationary hotel.

Things have changed a lot on a cruise since The Big Queen retired from sailing in 2008. Some people nostalgically remember those days for the formal dress code and scheduled dinners that have now largely been replaced by more casual arrangements.

But for my part, I welcome all new ships, big and small, fun and luxurious.

It makes the experience out of this world – just ask Rob the robot bartender.

Book vacations

MSC Cruises is offering a seven-night cruise only in the Arabian Gulf on the MSC Virtuosa starting at £ 369 per person. The round trip from Dubai departs on January 8 for Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi and Doha. Airline cruise from £ 929 per person. Learn more and book at msccruises.co.uk.

You can also find more information at the following destination sites:

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