Beauty is on the inside. A phrase that acquires its full meaning in the visit aboard the MSC Virtuosa. The cruiser makes its first stop on an island that could become the future base of operations on its routes. Its external image, docked at the South Dock of Santa Cruz of Tenerife, is already impressive, despite the fact that the area appears on Sunday morning full of other boats with tourists. But it stands out. They are 331 meters long, 43 meters wide, an LED dome 120 meters high, the equivalent of about 40 floors, 19 decks, 180,000 tons of cargo, 3,300 passengers, most of them British –the total capacity is 6,300–, 1,800 crew or 2,450 double cabins, even with a butler in the most exclusive cabins. Impressive plant and with the air of modernity typical of a ship opened in November last year. But inside it keeps treasures with even more value. It does not disappoint the local embassy that comes to fulfill the inaugural visit.
The day starts very early because we have to take advantage of the ten hours the ship spends in Tenerife. It arrives at eight in the morning from Las Palmas and leaves at six in the afternoon for Lanzarote, Vigo and its base port, Southampton.
Everything is big in this flagship of the prestigious Italian company, specialized in cruises, with the Maltese flag and built in French shipyards. So huge that each passenger has an average of 10 square meters of public space. Among the most environmentally advanced ships in the world. This is how its low emissions of sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide into the air must be understood. Or energy efficiency with intelligent models of heating, ventilation and air conditioning or an advanced treatment system that purifies water.
Also great, or at least long, is the strict access control, including antigen tests, as befits the pioneering health and hygiene protocol in the industry during the pandemic that ensures the travel of tens of thousands of passengers since August 2020 when the company restarted its operations in Italy.
A member of the crew acts as cicerone together with the efficient public relations, Sofía Basterra, and a luxury companion, the general director of MSC Spain, Fernando Pacheco. her love for him Cross portTenerife and Canary Islands he betrays him and goes out of his way to make sure everything goes well. And she goes.
The president of the Port Authority, Carlos González, heads the delegation from Tenerife. He exchanges the traditional courtesy metopes with the captain, Stefano Batinell –the commander wears full dress uniform–, a ritual that is repeated when the ship reaches a port for the first time.
Pacheco ratifies the commitment of MSC Cruises with Tenerife and anticipates that this coming fall it will be the base port, of embarkation and disembarkation, of another ship of the company, the MSC Magnifica. Its eleven-night route starts in Tenerife, to visit Madeira, Malaga, Barcelona, Marseille and Genoa. In addition, throughout this year, the MSC Musica, Preziosa, Seaview, Seashore and Splendida will make calls. For the Virtuosa, it is now being studied to establish a more powerful future relationship. Both for the Canarian market and for foreign clients who may spend several days here before or after boarding.
«.. It incorporates important technological and environmental innovations; it is designed to offer a dynamic and dazzling passenger experience with innovative features and facilities.” That’s what advertising says and it’s true. This is demonstrated, for example, by the largest commercial area in the sea, an iconic central promenade of 112 meters, the approximate extension of a football field, with a impressive led dome where stained glass or frescoes are reproduced that change throughout the day. Another fact: on the ship’s Art Wall there are eleven works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, which would be the envy of any contemporary art gallery in the world. Inside, the ship houses almost thirty restaurants with all kinds of menus or a gallery of specialties and luxury shops. A winding staircase with steps made of Svarovski crystal stands out in the central atrium. A universe full of pageantry. These are unique spaces where you can meet and enjoy leisure and the best entertainment. Big and boys. From multisport spaces to video games, consoles or two simulators of a Formula 1 car to the place destined for the spectrum from zero to three years that includes the entire world of lego.
Five swimming pools are spread over the decks with a spectacular water park and a multi-adventure space on the highest one where children and adults have a great time in front of a unique panoramic view given the height of the Anaga mountain range. The passengers toast. or rather they color their bodies in the morning sun. And luckily there is a slight breeze.
The absolute ‘star’
Suddenly, a space appears in the eyes of the visitor, the MSC StarShip Club, exclusive on this boat. He appears after going up a few floors. Or download them, one doesn’t really know because the first time here one is quite lost, logical when there is an application to be able to locate oneself. Starring in this unique scope is Rob, heralded as the world’s first futuristic humanoid robotic bartender. Among so many people, he, who is not, occupies the place of absolute star. He does not disappoint. In addition to speaking in eight languages and bringing his mechanical hand to his heart in greeting, he is efficient. He doesn’t drop a drop – good hand, mate – and mixes like the best cocktail shaker rum, lime liqueur and pineapple juice, ingredients chosen at random. Delicious. Also, he is able to teach dance steps. A gem of artificial intelligence. See you later, friend Rob.
«Strength and projection»
the president of Ports of Tenerife, Carlos González, thanks “MSC Cruises for its firm commitment to our ports, of which it is a regular customer”. González recalls that “our facility will be the embarkation port for its ship MSC Magnifica, in the autumn season of 2022 for a 12-day, 11-night Western Mediterranean itinerary from September to November.” He concludes: “It is always a pleasure to receive a company with an office in our port since 1992 but with 40 years of existence that reflect its strength and projection”.
Fernando Pacheco, for his part, comments that «Tenerife is a destination that attracts attention of national and international travelers for its landscapes of contrasts, the friendliness of its people and a huge tourist offer». These are the reasons for the commitment “to increase our presence in this port”. The objective is also to boost the local economy with the visits of thousands of passengers from all over the world who want to “explore its beaches, towns and peaks”. In addition, the announcement of Santa Cruz de Tenerife as the embarkation port for this autumn on board the MSC Magnifica “is a clear example of our commitment to the Canarian traveler, by facilitating access to a vacation at sea with the guarantee of fun, quality, relaxation and destination offerings that define MSC Cruises.” The company announces that it has scheduled a total of 15 stopovers in Santa Cruz de Tenerife for the rest of its fleet in 2022.
MSC Crociere SA (in Spanish, MSC Cruises) belongs to the Mediterranean Shipping Company. Founded in 1987 as Flotta Lauro Lines by the Italian Achille Lauro, it began its operations in the world of cruises in the 1960s with two ships: the SS Angelina Lauro and the MS Achille Lauro. In 1989, the company was acquired by Mediterranean Shipping Company, the second largest container shipping company with a fleet of nearly 400 ships. That same year she was renamed StarLauro Crociere. In 1995 she received a new name and MSC Crociere was born. It is currently the fourth largest cruise operator in the world and the second in Europe. It has approximately a 6.4% market share in the world (data from the year 2015) and a fleet of fifteen ships, apart from another fourteen ships that will be incorporated until 2027. The MSC Virtuosa was built by Chantiers de l’ Atlantic in Saint-Nazaire, France. She is the second ship in the Meraviglia-Plus class and sister to MSC Grandiosa.
Also in these general data, everything is big, the fate of the visiting day. On MSC Cruises, globally, and on the Virtuosa in particular. For the first time it docks in Tenerife but the relationship between ship and port promises to be long and fruitful. It’s time to say goodbye to this floating city where luxury and technology go hand in hand in perfect harmony to enjoy the best holidays at sea.