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Cruise Passenger magazine will be running a review of MSC Cruises’ newest ship, MSC Divina, in the Spring issue (out in September) but here’s a first-hand account of the lavish christening event on May 26, from MSC’s Australian representative Mike Smith.

The bustling French seaport of Marseille provided the perfect 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.

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…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.”

Sophia Loren & Gerard Depardieu

Numerous international stars attended the christening ceremony, including Gerard Depardieu, one of Europe’s most accomplished actors and talented leading men. He narrated the evening’s events and the story of MSC Divina in his own entertaining manner.

Another popular guest was celebrated classical performer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Maxim Vengerov. He is 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 highlight of the evening was of course the floodlit ceremony and the parade of the ship’s officers, when the peerless Sophia Loren cut the ribbon and named MSC Divina to a crescendo of champagne, confetti, and sparkling fountains.