MSC Meraviglia will reverse into Dublin Port today with as many as 5,700 passengers on board, writes Pól Ó Conghaile
The 315m MSC Meraviglia returning to Dublin today is the largest ever ship (by passenger capacity) to dock in the capital.
The gigantic cruise liner can carry up to 5,700 passengers.
In Dublin Port, they will be treated to quayside entertainment, before heading off on shore excursions including a city tour and visits to the Guinness Storehouse, Malahide Castle or Glendalough, Co. Wicklow.
MSC Meraviglia - 65m tall and some three times the length of a soccer pitch - paid her maiden visit to Dublin last May.
It is the world's fifth-largest cruise ship at 171,598 gross registered tonnes (GRT), ranking just after Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class vessels, including Symphony of the Seas - at 228,081 GRT the world's largest cruise ship.
Guest amenities including 12 restaurants, Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows, several pools and a 96m central promenade with the longest LED dome at sea (pictured below). It even has a Chocolate Atelier.
Due to their sheer size, ships like MSC Meraviglia have to be steered stern first into Dublin Port (watch a video of Celebrity Eclipse performing the manoeuvre below) - though a redevelopment of the Alexandra Basin will allow the gargantuan vessels to dock as far upriver as the East Link Bridge by 2020.
Swiss-owned MSC is marking 10 years trading in Ireland this week, and is steadily growing its Irish passenger numbers - 15,000 of whom sailed with MSC in 2017.
"Hopefully we will increase that figure in coming months," Antonio Paradiso, MD of MSC Cruises UK & Ireland, told Independent.ie Travel today.
"It’s a really exciting time to be part of Ireland’s rapidly expanding cruise market and we look forward to welcoming more and more Irish guests on our ships over the coming years.”
There are no immediate plans to 'home-port' a ship in Dublin, as Celebrity Cruises has done this year, though Paradiso says this is "definitely on my mind".
MSC Meraviglia arrives from Cobh, with two Irish stops forming part of a 10-night 'British Isles' itinerary out of Hamburg (other stops are in Southampton and Scotland).
From the Port of Cork, cruisers had the option of visiting the English Market, the Jameson Distillery in Midleton, the Rock of Cashel or Cliffs of Moher.
A 12-night Northern European cruise starts from €999pp in September.
MSC says the Mediterranean is its No.1 destination for Irish passengers, with Western Mediterranean sailings from Barcelona and Rome most popular. In winter, some 150 guests a week cruise from the UAE, it adds, "to escape the winter blues".
A sister ship, MSC Bellissima, is set to launch in Southampton next March. With a 5,700-passenger capacity, it will be the biggest cruise ship ever launched in the UK, Antonio Paradiso says.
Meraviglia sets sail from Dublin at 10.30pm tonight.