It was Holy Tuesday, and the people of Malaga walked in procession towards the Levante wharf in the port. This was not an Easter procession, however. They were doing so to take part in a unique event which would become part of the port’s history: the world presentation of the Symphony of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship in the world. This giant, which can carry nearly 9,000 passengers and crew, made its first appearance in Malaga with 1,500 important guests on board: directors of the Royal Caribbean cruise line, around 350 journalists from all over the world, travel agents and tour operators.
The inauguration day began early when the ship anchored in Malaga at 6am, having travelled from the Saint Nazaire shipyards in France. There was a festive atmosphere, with live music around the swimming pools and shopping gallery. The party even extended to the Levante esplanade, where people arrived all through the day to witness this world premiere.
At 4pm two tugs formalised the baptism of the ship by directing streams of water towards it, to which the captain, Rob Hemptstead, responded by sounding the sirens. Shortly afterwards the first emergency drill took place, and a video was shown of the major technology on board the vessel, which is 362 metres long and weighs 228,000 tonnes.
Later, some of the directors who would be travelling with the ship to Barcelona, from where it will make seven-night cruises around the Mediterranean, shared their impressions with the media.
As expected, they were keen to highlight all the aspects which make the Symphony of the Seas so spectacular, but they also said they were impressed by the attractions of Malaga city and the Costa del Sol. They were particularly surprised by the Easter processions and the unique ambience of Malaga at this time of year.
The focus of all attention
Malaga became the focus of attention for everybody in the cruising world when Royal Caribbean chose the port for the presentation of the ship, which has room for 6,680 passengers.
It was a tribute from the cruise company to the port, which will receive ten visits from five of its famous ships this year. Among them will be the Symphony of the Seas, which will be returning in October.
Royal Caribbean’s general director for the Eurozone, and associate vice-president of the company, Belén Wangüemert, said the firm is working with the Malaga authorities on new projects for the city.
“We always work with the ports and destinations to identify more opportunities. We have been doing that with Malaga for many years and we have a very good relationship. We are increasing the visits by our ships in line with demand. Malaga is a project which is always on the table,” she said at the press conference on the 16th deck of the ship, which she attended with the mayor of the city, Francisco de la Torre, and the president of the Port Authority, Paulino Plata.
The mayor presented a plaque to thank the company for choosing Malaga for the world presentation of the Symphony of the Seas and for helping to promote the city.
“This is a unique opportunity for the directors and for journalists from all over the world to get to know Malaga better,” he said. He also explained that events such as these have many positive effects. “It is an important complement to the constant promotional work carried out by the Port and the council every time there is a cruise tourism fair in Europe or America. This is almost equivalent to a fair of that type,” he said.
Paulino Plata said that there are discussions in progress for the cruise line to use Malaga as a base port for its forthcoming projects, and said the talks are going well.
“We are working closely together because Malaga is a top-quality destination,” he said, and also stressed how important it was for the port to have been chosen as the venue for the presentation of this very special cruise liner to the world.
The Symphony of the Seas is arranged in seven areas, with 18 decks (there is no number 13), 2,759 cabins, 19 swimming pools, slides, a Central Park with 12,000 natural plants and a shopping and restaurant area with 26 bars and lounges, a theatre and ice rink.
The firework display which marked the ship’s departure from Malaga delighted all those lucky enough to be on board.