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European mega-ship's maiden voyage

Story highlights

  • At 333 meters long, it is Europe's equal biggest cruise ship
  • The 'Allure of the Seas' at 362 meters is the world's biggest
  • MSC Preziosa's first official cruise will start March 24

Europe's largest cruise ship, the MSC Preziosa, set sail on its maiden voyage from the western France port of Saint Nazaire on Thursday.

The ship actually holds the title jointly with its sister ship the MSC Divina, which first set sail in May of 2012. Both measure 333 meters long by 38 meters wide and can hold 4,345 passengers. The mega-ships each weigh 140,000 tons and can travel at speeds of up to 23 knots.

Swiss-Italian cruise operator MSC Cruises says the ship has 30,000 square meters of public area, including pools, a casino and a theater.

The boat is the 12th in MSC's fleet, making it the world's third biggest cruise line, according to company CEO Pierfrancesco Vago.

The ship has quite the interesting back story. According to various reports, a shipping firm in Libya originally ordered it.

But payments were halted in the wake of the Libyan revolution in 2011.

MSC Cruises stepped in and purchased the already-in-progress ship from builder STX France.

The luxury cruise ship is now on its pre-inaugural 9-day/8-night cruise from Saint Nazaire, that will end in Genoa, Italy on Friday, March 22. There a christening ceremony will take place before it departs on March 24 on its first official cruise.

The five-night voyage begins in Genoa and includes stops in Naples, Messina, Tunis and Barcelona.