The 3,274 passenger, 137,936 ton MSC Fantasia was built by the STX shipyard at St. Nazaire, France in 2008 as the first of three Fantasia Class ships that includes the identical MSC Splendida of 2009 and the slightly larger MSC Divina, currently under construction and due to enter service in June of 2012. At the time of its delivery, the MSC Fantasia was the largest ship built for a private European shipowner. MSC Cruises is a division of Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second largest freight-container shipping line, founded by Swiss-based tycoon Gianluigi Aponte in 1970. In 1989, MSC purchased StarLauro, an historic Naples-based company that was formed in 1947 as Lauro Line to transport emigrants to Australia before it became a full-time cruise line. The company was renamed MSC Cruises in 1994 and has become one of the fastest growing cruise lines in the world with a fleet of twelve vessels. Here is a view of the MSC Fantasia shortly after its maiden arrival in Naples in December of 2008. The MSC Fantasia was christened by MSC’s serial godmother and close friend of the Aponte family, the legendary Sophia Loren. The gala ceremony took place in Naples on December 18, 2008, shortly after the actress finished “Nine”, her first major Hollywood film in decades. Prior to the naming, Loren attended a standing-room-only conference in the ship’s L’Insolito Lounge. A magnum of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin champagne was rigged to the MSC Fantasia’s bow for release at the conclusion of the naming ceremony in Naples A huge Mylar and tarpaulin-covered pavilion was constructed to house 2,500 guests alongside the Naples Maritime Station passenger terminal under the rain-soaked prow of the towering MSC Fantasia. A grand, three-hour spectacle with an undersea-themed stage setting, guest musicians and a series of speeches invoking and blessing the ship ensued. After the godmother cut the ceremonial ribbon, a blizzard of confetti flowed from the rafters, the ship’s whistle blew and the Bay of Naples erupted in fireworks. The MSC Fantasia is exceptionally good looking for its size with a well-proportioned, curvaceous superstructure topped by the line’s trademark, grilled navy blue “swoop” of a funnel. The ship is 1093.5 feet long by 124.3 feet wide, draws a draft of 28 feet and is powered by diesel electric motors that drive twin screws at a service speed of 23 knots. Heralded as “the most beautiful ship in the world” by its owners, MSC Fantasia has fourteen passenger decks that are connected by 18 lifts and three main stairtowers. Registered in Panama, the ship is manned by Italian officers and an international staff and crew. MSC Fantasia was the first vessel in the MSC fleet to introduce the “ship within a ship” Yacht Club, which contains 99 deluxe suites, a concierge lounge, private pool and lido that are for the exclusive use of its guests. On Deck 18 atop the forward superstructure, the Yacht Club has an outdoor lido with rattan deck chairs and an al fresco bar that is sheltered by full length glass screens on either side and forward. The Yacht Club also has its own adult wading pool and two whirlpools. A staircase studded in Swarovski crystal swirls down from a block of Yacht Club suites on Deck 16 to the Concierge Lounge on Deck 15. Here is another view of the Yacht Club staircase with its rich gold, blue and brown overtones. All MSC ships feature interior decor by Milan-based Studio de Jorio, in conjunction with the chairman’s wife, Mrs. Aponte. The Top Sail Lounge is exclusively for Yacht Club guests, seating 147 and providing a dynamic, forward-facing view through angled windows on Deck 15. It is both observation lounge and dining venue offering specialties from the ship’s main restaurants as well as daily high tea. Six Executive Suites top the Yacht Club accommodation tier and measure 355 to 447 square feet. An Executive Suite sitting area is shown. Yacht Club Executive Suites have separate bedrooms with Myform Memory mattresses, Egyptian cotton sheets and a Dorlean pillow menu to choose from. Here is a partially-sheltered, forward-facing balcony of a Yacht Club Executive Suite. Yacht Club Suites all feature marble-top bathrooms with a spa bath and shower. This Executive Suite bathroom has a dark blue-veined marble counter. Yacht Club Deluxe Balcony Suites measure 235 to 285 square feet. This one is furnished in rich gold, deep blue and dark wood tones. Here is a Yacht Club Deluxe Balcony Suite bathroom. In the main portion of the ship, there is a sheltered sunning area on the Deck 18 level atop the circular midships superstructure. MSC Fantasia’s architects instilled dynamic curvature into its design, as evidenced by the grilled sweep of the funnel casing. This is a forward-facing view overlooking the midships Aqua Park family pool area from the Deck 18 platform. From the Yacht Club terrace on forward Deck 16, here is aft-facing view of the midships Aqua Park family pool area. A nighttime view of the Aqua Park pool area with the fiber-optic lighting and fountains in full gear. On aft Deck 16, there is a games (tennis, basketball) court in the shelter of the funnel casing. Bleacher-style seating overlooks the games court and is adjacent to an enclosed squash court. A sliding-glass ceiling covers the all-weather I Tropici Pool and bar complex on Deck 14. Here is a view from the port-side terrace on Deck 15. Open promenades stretch aft on either side of Deck 15 overlooking the Deck 14 open air Aqua Park family pool. In the spaceship-style structure that overlooks the Aqua Park pool area, the curved glass in its center is actually a casing for the panoramic elevators that scale the MSC Fantasia’s dramatic atrium. Another view of the Aqua Park family pool area from the vantage of Deck 15. On aft Deck 15, there is the adults-only Lido Catalano with a swimming pool and two whirlpools decked out in Gaudi-inspired mosaics. A network of “dancing” fountains and an oversize-LED screen broadcasting major sports events keep the open-air Aqua Park well-attended, even in inclement weather. The al fresco Bar delle Fontane serves the Aqua Park family pool area on midships Deck 14. There is an open-deck crew area with a whirlpool and sunning space on the Deck 8 fo’c’sle beneath the sweeping curvature of the ship’s terraced forward superstructure. The Fantasia Class ships have long finite promenades on either side of Deck 7. The 5,245 square-foot Liquid Disco accommodates 120 guests. Situated within the Deck 16 level of the “spaceship” structure overlooking the pool area, it is one of the more vibrantly decorated spaces on the MSC Fantasia. Adjoining the Liquid Disco is Le Privé, a quieter nook with equally high decibel decor. On Deck 16 adjacent to the Liquid Disco is the 4D Theater, a virtual simulator with moving seats for eight guests. There is also a Formula One simulator adjoining the 4D Theater offering its patrons a chance to race some of the world’s most famous and challenging tracks. Located on Deck 15, the I Graffiti teen nightclub is accessed from Deck 16 via a graffiti-studded staircase. Decoratively, the 31-seat I Graffiti lives up to its name as MSC Fantasia’s teen nightclub and karaoke parlor. Il Polo Nord is a 2,089 square-foot North Pole-themed playroom and water park on Deck 15. Accommodating 136 guests, L’Etoile is the MSC Fantasia’s extra-tariff French-specialty restaurant. In lieu of a set fare, courses are priced individually. Overlooking the bow on Deck 14, the MSC Aurea Spa has a sauna, steam room, Turkish bath and Thalassotherapy pool. An extensive gymnasium with cardio equipment, a large stretching area and a weight room front the MSC Aurea Spa. The MSC Aurea Spa has its own smoothie and snack bar adjacent to the gymnasium. A diverse menu of treatments are available in the MSC Aurea Spa’s beauty salon. Some of the MSC Aurea Spa treatment rooms can accommodate two guests and feature a spectacular view through a wall of glass. The Zanzibar Pizzeria and Buffet seats 412 on aft Deck 14. Used for breakfast and lunch as a buffet, it is only open as a full-service dinner venue when the ship is fully booked and the two main restaurants are occupied. Adjoining Zanzibar is the similarly-decorated L’Africana Restaurant, which accommodates 404 guests for buffet lunch and dinner. Teatro L’Avangardia is a three-deck, Frank Gehry-inspired showroom that seats 1,649 guests. Shows on MSC ships often feature Cirque de Soleil-style acrobatics, pantomime and elaborate staging, costumes, sound and lighting. Il Transatlantico is a 108-seat piano bar, pub and ballroom with decor inspired by a Fellini-esque ocean liner. The Manhattan Bar is a 106-seat jazz-themed piano bar and lounge with vibrant MidCentury decor with a nod to Mondrian. Here is a detail of the MidCentury “mod” elements that make up the Manhattan Bar. The Sports Bar seats 87 and features sports-themed decor and memorabilia as well as multiple LED screens for the latest sports broadcasts. The 58-seat Il Cappuccino specialty coffee bar features a mocha palate and curvaceous yellow-marble accents with an Art Deco flourish. No better way to start a day onboard MSC Fantasia than with a steamy hot cappuccino in a seat overlooking the ship’s three-deck atrium. La Cantina Toscana is a 105-seat a la carte wine bar with a by-the-bottle-or-glass menu that also features a variety of antipasti. Spaghetti western? Adjoining La Cantina Toscana is the Tex-Mex themed, 108-seat El Sombrero, which features an a la carte menu of Mexican specialties. It’s cheeky decor includes faux cacti, brick arches, a vintage Cadillac and posters of “most wanted” Mexican outlaws. A photo gallery spans a long segment of aft Deck 7. Its showcases feature iconic images of the great liners of yesteryear. L’Insolito is a cabaret-show room and nightclub located on aft Deck 7. Seating 268, its decor is an amusing mélange of faux stone bulkheads and vividly colored “mod” furnishing. In the MSC Fantasia’s 3,337 square-foot Casino delle Palme, black mirrored glass and brass palm trees sprout from a sea of gaming tables, slots and black and red diamond-patterned carpeting. A private poker room is located just aft of the Casino delle Palme. MSC Fantasia has an Art Nouveau-themed 31-seat Cigar Lounge on port Deck 6 adjacent to the Casino delle Palme. In the 4,950 square-foot, 80-seat Piazza San Giorgio, wrought-iron furnishings are set in a backdrop of fountains and banded pillars. A selection of gelati, chocolates and coffees are available for purchase. Le Vele is a 98-seat bar with a fountain in the Deck 6 level of the atrium. The MSC Fantasia’s atrium has a Plexiglas piano suspended atop a fountain and is traversed by two panoramic lifts that soar from its Deck 5 base eleven decks to the Deck 16 level. Swarovski crystal-studded staircases link the three levels of the atrium on the MSC Fantasia. A detail of the inlaid Swarovski crystals in the Atrium steps. La Caramela is a swirl-shaped candy shop with neon accents in the Deck 6 level of the Atrium. Red Velvet is the first of MSC Fantasia’s two traditional restaurants. The dual-level space accommodates 1,155 guests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Il Cerchio D’Oro (The Golden Ring) is the second of MSC Fantasia’s pair of traditional restaurants. It is located on aft Deck 6 and seats 766 guests. The reception and main tour desks are located in the base of the Atrium on Deck 5. This is a view looking directly up from the Deck 5 base of the Atrium. The Fantasia Bar serves 28 in the Atrium’s starboard side Deck 5 level. It’s proximity to the Red Velvet Restaurant makes it a choice spot for a pre- or post-dinner rendezvous. Located on port Deck 5 near the Atrium, the Business Center accommodates 38 for meetings and lectures. The Cyber Library seats 14 guests and functions as both a Library and internet access lounge. Accommodation on the MSC Fantasia includes 1,151 richly appointed Standard and Superior Balcony Staterooms that measure 194 square feet in addition to their 42-square-foot balconies. Standard and Superior Balcony Staterooms also come in a red, blue and gold color scheme. Almost all staterooms on the MSC Fantasia feature private facilities, a writing desk, twin beds that can convert to a queen and individually-controlled air conditioning. The 42-square-foot balconies in the Standard and Superior Balcony Stateroom category have rattan furnishings. Standard and Superior Balcony Staterooms have relatively compact bathrooms with showers. There are 42 wheelchair-accessible suites and cabins in four categories of accommodation. This is one of two Oceanview staterooms on Deck 5 with modified layouts, doors and bathrooms. Bathrooms in wheelchair-accessible staterooms have grab bars, modified controls and showers that can accommodate wheelchairs. At the bottom tier of accommodation, there are 294 handsomely decorated, 172-square-foot Interior Staterooms on the MSC Fantasia.