French shipyard sends 4,300-berth MSC Preziosa on first voyage
Pride of French shipbuilders, cruise ship is among 10 largest in the world
Agence France-Presse in Saint-Nazaire, France
Europe's largest cruise ship, the MSC Preziosa - a behemoth longer than the Eiffel Tower - has cast off on its first voyage, from Saint-Nazaire in western France to the southern port of Marseille.
The Preziosa was initially ordered by Libyan state shipping firm GNMTC in 2010, before shipbuilder STX France sold it on to Swiss-Italian operator MSC Cruises a year ago after Libya stopped making payments amid the revolution against Muammar Gaddafi.
The ship is 333 metres long, can carry 4,300 passengers and 1,400 crew, has four swimming pools, and is decked out in black and purple velvet, white-veined black marble and giant mirrors in front of passengers' beds.
At a christening ceremony on Thursday, French Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg said the Preziosa was a symbol of French shipbuilding prowess.
"Look at the 'Made in France', as they say, look how magnificent it is," he said, announcing €100 million (HK$1 billion) in state aid to the industry, including €80 million for projects such as fuel-efficient cruise liners.
Shipbuilding employs some 70,000 people in France and generates annual turnover of more than €10 billion.
The Preziosa measures among the 10 largest ships in the world.
But MSC Preziosa loses out in the size battle to be the world's largest to Miami-based Royal Caribbean International, which has five ships larger than the Preziosa.