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CRUISES

100 days until arrival of giant MSC Cruises ship

Gene Sloan , USA TODAY

Scheduled to debut in June 2017, MSC Cruises' 167,600-ton MSC Meraviglia will be the line's biggest ship ever and the seventh largest from any cruise operator. MSC Cruises Only 100 more days to go, MSC Cruises fans. The 100-day countdown to the unveiling of the fast-growing line's biggest ship ever, MSC Meraviglia, begins today.

The 167,600-ton vessel will be christened on June 4 in Le Havre, France before taking up residence in the Mediterranean. It'll operate seven-night voyages that include stops in France, Italy, Malta and Spain. Designed for an international audience including North Americans, MSC Meraviglia will be one of the 10 largest cruise vessels ever from any line.

Nineteen decks high and chock full of eateries and bars, it will have all the trappings of a major megaresort including an Aqua Park with three water slides, a splash pool and an adventurous "Himalayan Bridge" that allows passengers to cross the ship nearly 200 feet above the water. MSC Cruises

Meraviglia also will boast a Miami Beach-inspired, 82-foot-long main pool that will be part of what MSC says is the most generous poolside space at sea. Other notable features planned for Meraviglia include an amusement park area with race car simulators, a flight simulator, a 4D cinema and a full-sized bowling alley as well as the largest LED dome at sea.

There also will be an aft pool that transforms into a dance area at night, a dedicated lounge for family activities, and exclusive Cirque du Soleil shows performed in a custom-made entertainment venue.

Twelve distinct dining venues are in the works including a sushi bar, teppanyaki restaurant, American-style steakhouse and a branch of the Italian chain Eataly. Designed to hold up to 5,700 passengers, Meraviglia is the first ship in the new Meraviglia class of ships at MSC.

A second vessel in the series will debut in early 2019 with two larger "Meraviglia Plus" ships coming in late 2019 and 2020. Still relatively unknown in North America, Europe-based MSC is a giant of cruising in Europe that is in a rapid expansion around the globe.

Currently operating 12 vessels, it's in the midst of adding at least 11 more ships by 2026. The company's passenger capacity is set to nearly triple over the coming decade. Meraviglia is one of two new MSC vessels debuting this year. Also on the way is MSC Seaside, a slightly smaller ship that will sail out of Miami and be aimed more squarely at the North American market.

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