Unless you’ve known me since Primary School, you’re probably not aware that I am actually one quarter Italian, although I don’t speak or understand a word. Well actually that is a complete lie, I know that Ciao means hello and goodbye but that’s literally it. I am embarrassed by the fact that I am ridiculously ignorant and don’t know how to speak a language that is not only part of my heritage and who I am , it is beautiful. One thing I have definitely picked up from my Italian blood line is my love for a cuddle! Yes, that’s right, I love a hug so be warned, if you’ve ever had any correspondence with me or my blog, when we finally meet in person, you will get a squish from me. I am tactile and proud. I most definitely get this trait from my dear late Nan, who was born and raised in Naples, which is where she met and fell head over heels for my Grandad, who was serving in the Army at the time. She finally settled here in the UK during World War 2. I should imagine that you’ll likely be aware, if you read my blogs or follow me on Instagram or Twitter, that I am a self confessed cruise addict. Coincidentally, when the Italian-Swiss, privately owned MSC Cruises invited me to join them for the weekend aboard their newest member of the family – MSC Bellissima, I literally jumped at the chance. Surely being a large, family fun ship I would fall in love with Bellissima.
Photo by Andrew McAlpine
After a swift and pleasant embarkation my feet had finally and firmly planted themselves on deck 5. Glitz, glamour and Italian flare greeted my arrival as the famous MSC scent filled my lungs. The Infinity Lounge is certainly a sight for the sorest of eyes, with Swarovski filled staircases and a strategically placed lounge and bar area. For a fleeting moment I let my mind wander: I could see myself enjoying my favorite tipple here at any time of the day, although that wasn’t to be on this occasion. I was inevitably invited as a Cruise Blogger, with a job to do. My first and foremost aim was to capture as much of the ship as I possibly could before the celebrations of the Naming Ceremony the next day.
Suitability for families is always at the forefront of my mind when booking a cruise, after all cruises are not cheap by any means; that’s not to say that they are not great value for money and MSC Cruises are, more than most. When it comes to the costing for this cruise line, MSC class children as just that, I certainly hail and commend MSC Cruises for this absolute godsend.
My first day on beautiful Bellissima was spent seeking out family friendly facilities and features, I can hand on heart tell you that there are loads! Decks 16 – 19 is jam packed with fun, fun, fun. As much as I would love to tell you more now, I’m afraid that will have to be an entirely separate blog post for the future, so watch this space. In the meantime, please do take my word for it, this ship is equipped with more family features than you can shake a stick at.
After a full on day of photography and attending press conferences, I was able to pop on my glad rags and head out to dinner in one of the ships main dining rooms on deck 6 – Le Cerisier. Elated to be seated with fellow bloggers, now friends we passed the hours eating good food, and in true cruise blogger style, the main topic of conversation was Bellissima and what the ship had to offer from all of our different perspectives. Everyone unanimously agreed that the ship has plenty on offer for everyone. The night was still young, there were more venues to visit, more photos to take and more catching up to be had.
An early start on the Saturday ensured I had a fighting chance to gather further content on the open decks before Storm Freya was due to hit the South Coast, threatening to spoil months of preparation and endless visions of certain dedicated, passionate and hardworking individuals. There was a definite buzz in the air that day, it must’ve had a little something to do with the Naming Ceremony. I cant speak for everyone else onboard, for me however, this was my first, and I hope not to be my last, invite to a Cruise Ship Christening. Of course, being a ship geek, I have seen them on the television before and only hoped I could one day be in attendance to witness such a wonderment.
Passing the hours was fun to say the least. I spent part of the morning in the company of two blogger friends on a rather sumptuous seating area in the Champagne Bar, although not much conversation was had. It was standard, being in a room with a blogger kind of time, you know the ones? little conversation and lots of clicking. We were all desperately trying to upload as much of our content to our Instagram stories and social media pages as possible. You see, when you have a genuine passion, as we do for cruising and cruise ships, your wish is to share it with the entire world. I suppose it is lucky really that we have the understanding of professionalism within the industry that enables to feel comfortable and at ease with each other when there is work to be done and content to be shared.
Sometime after this we headed up to Market Place Buffet for a spot of lunch where we met with another cruise blogging friend. We all gorged upon freshly baked Pizza. Pizza cooked there and then in an open kitchen, a feast for your eyes and stomach! It was utterly delicious. My mind was instantly taken back to my family at home, I remembered thinking how my youngest daughter Eden, who is an incredibly fussy eater, would have loved to have seen the chefs tossing the dough and turning it into the perfect pizza. She would have eaten it too, which is quite something. Yet another Pro for family cruising ticked off the list.
Conversation was flowing now for we were all satisfied with our content findings and uploads. The talk turned to the evening ahead and how we would spend much of it in the largest marquee in the United Kingdom, with the “BeautyAtSea” Bellissima as our backdrop. Oh, she really is beautiful!
Master Of The Seas English bar was the venue of choice for bloggers and journalists to indulge in a pre-drink before being called to attendance. Anticipation built among us as we made our way through a heated and glorious entrance passage into the marvelous marquee. In true MSC style, glitz and glamour, lights and sparkles shone brightly. I literally had stars in my eyes, this was hands down the most lavish ceremony I have ever attended. Desperately wishing for my followers and supporters to see, feel and hear what I was experiencing, I immediately started a live on Instagram. I wish I could’ve have bought you all with me but that was as close to it as I could get.
Instantly recognising the two silhouettes making their way to the main stage, my heart began to race, for stood before me, in closer proximity than I could have ever dreamed was Andrea Bocelli and his son Matteo. I’m a big fan OK, please don’t judge me over my over excitement. I will forever remember this moment in my lifetime as one of the most enchanting.
Master of Ceremonies, Holly Willoughby effortlessly took to the podium with her instantly recognisable style and voice, everyone cheered – loudly! Holly, of course did an amazing job throughout the ceremony. We were also treated to a teaser performance by the talented and flexible cast of Cirque Du Soleil, who actually perform during the evenings on board various MSC Cruise ships, including Bellissima. I was left without a doubt that I would reserve tickets to see this show should I book a cruise with MSC. Including all of the stunning performances and celebrations of staff, cadets and passengers , I was perhaps most blown away and dumbfounded by the heartfelt generosity that MSC Cruises have shown to various global charities, in particular Reubens Retreat. Reuben Michael Graham tragically passed away in 2012, aged just 23 months. Ruebens mummy Nicola took to the stage with Anotonio Paradiso (Managing Director for MSC CruisesUK, Ireland and Executive Director for Australia and Scandanavia), where they shared a genuine affiliation for the charity and its future. This moment really hit home to me, being the mummy of two girls who have a terminable blood condition which causes them to have a weakened immune system, resulting in many hospital stays and some truly unspeakable moments. I felt completely overwhelmed by this remarkable woman. Please click here if you wish to learn more about the charity and Reuben’s family.
Whilst we were approximately 80% through the ceremony, comfortably sitting in the largest marquee in the United Kingdom, it became clear that we weren’t the only ones being whipped into an excited frenzy. Storm Freya obviously wanted in on part of the action. I absolutely commend MSC Cruises for their calm and impeccable handling of the situation. Their first and foremost concern was the safety of all invitees. Plan B was in place. Once everyone was back on Bellissima, the ceremony continued. Storm Freya may have dampened the outside world but Bellissima was buzzing! Madame Sophia Loren, Cruise Godmother to 13 ships in the MSC fleet, elegantly took centre stage in the Galleria where she was surrounded by the ship’s Officers and Master Raffaele Pontecorvo – Captain of MSC Bellissima. The countdown began and the bottle smashed against the bow of Bellissima. I honestly found this an emotional moment. I know I wasn’t alone in that feeling, of which took me by total surprise. The LED dome burst into life with a fantastical fireworks display.
Soon after the ceremony we made our way to the main dining room where we were treated to a glorious Gala Dinner. Naturally, everyone was talking about how the weekend had been a “pinch me” moment, however the night was still young…
I would like to thank MSC Cruises for this lifetime opportunity. I have personally thanked those who are responsible for making this happen and for bringing such a “beautyatsea to my nearest city, Southampton in the UK.
Pop back later for a full specification on Bellissima.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for your continued support.
Forever grateful – Claire Harris xx