MSC Cruises’ new flagship MSC Virtuosa is to make its debut running UK coastal sailings.
The new vessel, capable of carrying up to 6,000 passengers in normal circumstances, is being deployed to replace MSC Magnifica on the series of summer departures from Southampton from May 20.
MSC Virtuosa was previously scheduled to serve itineraries in northern Europe from Germany and is being replaced by MSC Seaview.
Four-night British Isles sailings start at £499 and £849 for seven nights, including a premium drinks package and gratuities.
The ship features ten restaurants and 21 bars including two new specialty dining options. Other features include five swimming pools and a 112-metre-long promenade lined with bars and restaurants topped with a giant LED screen.
The sailings are available to UK residents only – both vaccinated and unvaccinated – “at the present time”, according to the line. Sales open on April 1.
MSC Virtuosa will initially run six mini-cruises including a stop in Portland in Dorset.
The four-night breaks will offer a late departure from Southampton and include two days at sea.
These will be followed by a series of seven-night sailings with calls into Liverpool and Greenock in Scotland from June 12.
The line said: “MSC Cruises tried and tested ‘social bubble’ ashore visits deliver the same high standards of health and safety as on board. This is reassuring not only for guests but also the destinations that are visited as healthy guests are visiting their communities and that best practices of health and hygiene will be applied when local attractions are visited.”
The company added: “All operations will be conducted in accordance with relevant government requirements and will see the implementation of MSC Cruises’ industry-leading health and safety protocol.
“Guests currently booked on MSC Magnifica will be able to transfer their cruise to MSC Virtuosa. Guests and travel agents will be contacted directly.”
Non-vaccinated passengers will be required to show proof of negative test conducted within 72 hours prior to embarkation.
Passengers must also ensure that they have organised Covid-specific travel insurance prior to departure and bring proof this to show at embarkation.
UK and Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso said: “Following our recent announcement that we intend to offer cruises in the UK we have been overwhelmed by the response from MSC Cruises customers and avid cruisers eager to get back on board and experience a cruise with us this summer.
“I am personally very proud to be able to bring our newest ship MSC Virtuosa to the UK so that our valued British guests are the first to officially come on board and the first to experience this incredible next generation ship.
“She is the latest, most innovative and environmentally advanced to join the MSC Cruises fleet and we couldn’t be more delighted to offer UK holidaymakers and their families the chance to discover her world class facilities.
“We have all been waiting for something exciting to look forward to and this ship has lots of new features for our guests to experience including new speciality restaurants and a brand-new immersive entertainment lounge with a humanoid robotic bartender and much more.”