Already sporting 12 ships built since 2001, MSC Cruises is opting to add two more ships to its fleet.
The line signed a letter of intent today with STX France to build two new cruise ships at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard with an option to add two more ships in the future.
The ships' construction, contingent on securing financing, would join the growing fleet in 2017 and 2019. The line debuted the MSC Preziosa in 2013 and the MSC Divina, which now sails year-round out of PortMiami, in 2012.
"Growth and development have always been the characteristics that have defined MSC since the very beginning of our journey into the world of cruising, " said MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago. "The launch of this prototype and the building of these two new ships confirm our commitment to further growth and to further development."
All of MSC's current fleet were constructed at the French shipyards. Its last two ships were 139,400, 3,500-passenger vessels. The new 1,033-foot-long ships will be 167,600 tons, with a 4,500-passenger capacity, based on double occupancy, and a maximum capacity of 5,700 passengers. That puts the new ships among the largest in the world, on par with Royal Caribbean's upcoming Quantum and Anthem of the Seas.
The ships will feature an amusement park connected to an outdoor water park, a larger theater, a two-deck inside promenade, cabins built specifically for families and an expansion of its MSC Yacht Club, the ship-within-a-ship concept featured aboard some of its other vessels with its own restaurant, lounge and solarium.
"The new prototype will be the biggest cruise ship ever built by a European ship owner and the most versatile and flexible of the world," said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises. "The two new ships will reaffirm MSC Cruises' dedication to outstanding and genuine dining options and out-of-this-world entertainment with new panoramic spaces."
The ships continue a reinvigorated shipbuilding trend that has 24 new ships on order or under construction due by the end of 2015, according to Cruise Lines International Association President & CEO Christine Duffy.
"In 2014, we're projecting 21.7 million passengers will enjoy a cruise holiday, nearly double the passengers carried just a dozen years ago," Duffy said at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference last week. "The industry continues to expand its reach, bringing passengers to the most sought over parts of the world creating a more dynamic and competitive market."
The two ships continue MSC's efforts to compete on the global level with Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.
"MSC Cruises will expand its capacity by 31 percent. We will incredibly enrich our offer on board and we will broaden our horizons to ensure we meet the growing global demand in every region," Vago said.