MSC Cruises, the Italian cruise line, is to build two new cruise ships for delivery in 2017 and 2018, with the option to commission a third if desired.

Costing €700 million ($1.2 billion) each, the ships will be built with “revolutionary” architecture, the firm claims, aimed at making an unusually large area of exterior deck space accessible to passengers.

Overall the 154,000-ton ships – the biggest undertaken by Italian ship yard Fincatieri – will have 43,500 meters of public areas including a sea-level promenade. Called “Seaside”, the prototype design will circumnavigate the ship with outdoor spaces, shops and restaurants.

Employing cantilever technology, the promenade deck will be significantly wider than the norm and will also feature a large theatre, a terraced balcony and panoramic sea-view lifts to take passengers from the lower “outside” area to the upper without the need to go inside the ship.

UK and Ireland managing director Giles Hawke described it as “very South Beach.”

“The idea is to bring passengers closer to sea level so that they feel as if they are at the beach,” he added.

Mr Hawke said the features had been designed for warm weather ships that are based in the Mediterranean or Caribbean and will employ wind-tunnel technology and glass deflectors that will enable passengers to “feel as if they are outside even if they are dining inside”.

Other technological innovations will further reduce fuel consumption by 25 per cent and allow the ship to dock in “any port in the world”.

“The new ships will be slightly shorter than our Fantasia-class ships (333 metres long), but wider,” said a spokesman. “The ports we visit won’t have to do any work or dredging to accommodate the ships.”

Photo Credit: A fleet of Fiat watercraft welcomes the MSC Divina as the cruise ship arrives in her new home port of Miami on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. Walter Michot / Miami Herald/MCT