EXCLUSIVE: As she prepared to host the naming ceremony for MSC Bellissima, Holly Willoughby spoke to Cruise International Editor Liz Jarvis about giant slides, Sophia Loren and why she loves mountains.

Holly Willoughby poses on the Crystal staircase on board MSC Bellissima
Holly Willoughby poses on board MSC Bellissima (photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images for MSC Bellissima)

This isn’t my first time on a cruise ship, said Holly Willoughby. I went on one years ago when I was about 17, and I think it was probably one of our last family holidays, really. Mum and Dad were going, and me and my sister just suddenly had a week off work, and they were like ‘come with us’. And I’d never been on a cruise before, but we went to the Caribbean and sailed round the islands and I loved it because you could stop off and see everywhere. My favourite thing about it was the eating; food on tap the whole time, so that really appeals to me, and calories don’t count at sea, so I hear, so it was fine.

You can’t miss MSC Bellissima, that’s for sure. As we were driving into Southampton this morning there was this vast ship on the horizon – it’s incredible. I think the thing that people worry about with cruises is that you’re going to get cabin fever, or you’re going to want to get off and stretch your legs, but the main promenade, the Galleria Bellissima, feels like you’re walking around a city somewhere. So that was one of the first things that struck me,
I think; the size of the area you’ve got to explore is just really lovely. It’s a very glamorous ship – I mean have you seen the Swarovski staircase? You don’t get much more glamorous than that. I brought my mum, Linda, with me today and her eyes lit up as soon as she saw it, and she said ‘you would like that in your house, wouldn’t you?’

I’d love to do a cruise that goes through the Arctic and Norway, where it’s really snowy. But I’m a sucker for going to the beach, so anywhere like Bora Bora or the Maldives; somewhere I can just go and do my thing and switch off.

As a family we like skiing, so that’s kind of a new thing and our four-year-old, Chester, started skiing properly this year in France. So for me that’s like the perfect family holiday, although my husband, Dan, would disagree as he prefers the sun. But I think when everybody’s outdoors all day together and doing something, and you have dinner and you’re all talking about what you did that day, what you learnt and when you fell over, I think it really brings you together as a family. And also when you’re skiing – your phone doesn’t work up a mountain, you can’t think about anything else because you’re fully focused on getting from top to bottom. 

The first thing I noticed on MSC Bellissima is that giant slide, which I know that Chester, his brother Harry, who is nine, and sister Belle, seven, would love. And the kids’ club rooms are LEGO-themed. So I think if you’re looking for things to keep the children entertained, there’s lots of variety.

MSC Cruises is an Italian cruise line and my mother-in-law is Italian. She is from Tuscany, just north of Lucca, which is beautiful. She’s still got a place there so we go and stay with the kids and eat amazing Italian food.

I couldn’t wait to meet Sophia Loren, who is godmother to MSC Bellissima and the other ships in the MSC Cruises’ fleet; she is one of life’s beauties, that’s for sure. She’s been in the industry a long time, she’s an icon. I’ve seen her movies but, for me, it’s more those iconic images of her that you remember. She’s a very beautiful woman. 

My sister Kelly and I were very lucky when we were growing up, because our mum and dad are as big as kids as we are, and they loved going to Disney World. I remember it was magical, and we’ve taken our kids to Disney World, because it stayed with me and I wanted our kids to have that experience. 

I always take my Kindle with me when travelling because it’s my only time to just read and chill. My mother-in-law gives me a list of all the books she’s read all the year through, and then I just download them onto the Kindle. They’re always thrillers or murder-mysteries… I like crime.    

Check out more of our celebrity interviews or visit msccruises.co.uk to book a cruise on MSC Bellissima.