The news from MSC Cruises shows that cruise lines aren't shrinking their ambitions — or the size of ship orders — as they plan far into the future.
The largest cruise ships in the world are in for a lot of company — and ports around the globe should start preparing for more visits from vessels that carry 5,000-plus passengers.
Fast-growing European line MSC Cruises on Wednesday announced an agreement to order as many as four new giant ships that will approach the size of the biggest already at sea.
The new prototype, dubbed the “World Class” by MSC, will encompass over 200,000 gross registered tons and include more than 2,700 staterooms. That means the ships will be able to accommodate at least 5,400 passengers at double occupancy.
That’s just about the size and capacity of the current record-holding Oasis class of ships at Royal Caribbean International. Harmony of the Seas, which will be delivered next month, is slightly larger than siblings Oasis and Allure at 227,000 tons with room for more than 5,470 passengers at double occupancy.
Ken Muskat, executive vice president of sales, public relations, and guest services at MSC Cruises USA, said the vessels will be the biggest yet for the privately held brand, which is based in Switzerland. Details are still being worked out, so it is not yet known if the ships might even surpass Royal Caribbean’s in size.
Muskat said the size allows the company to offer more amenities, restaurants, and entertainment and provides the operator with more efficiencies.
“But I think at the end of the day, it’s not just about setting out to build a big ship,” he said. “It’s really what do we want to do to advance, what do we want to do to compete, what do we want to do to appeal to a global market.”
He said the company isn’t worried about ports being able to accommodate the massive ships, which will start being delivered in 2022.
“There are more places in the Caribbean and in Europe that are expanding, changing their infrastructure, to be able to handle these kinds of ships,” Muskat said. “By the time these ships come out, I think there’s going to be less limitations and a lot more places for them to go globally.”
MSC Cruises has 12 vessels sailing today and seven already on order in the Meraviglia, Meraviglia Plus and Seaside classes.The new letter of intent with the STX France shipyard includes two orders and the option for two more. If all go through, the company will have 23 ships by 2026.
The cost of the four newest ships would be nearly $4.5 billion total; including the other seven ships already in the works, that number tops $10 billion.
The cruise company has ambitious plans to grow in North and South America, Europe, Asia and elsewhere.
“In order to do that, you have to have more capacity,” Muskat said. “There’s only so much you can do with 12 ships.”
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Photo credit: A rendering of the main pool on MSC Meraviglia, coming in 2017. The company announced on Wednesday it plans to order a new, bigger class of ships. MSC