The announcement came today in Paris as the cruise line and STX France signed a letter of intent for the first two ships in the class, for delivery in 2017 and 2019, respectively. The letter of intent also includes an option for two more ships in the same class. STX France is the same shipyard that built all of MSC's ships.
"The new prototype will be the biggest cruise ship ever built by a European ship owner," said CEO of MSC Cruises Gianni Onorato at the signing, which took place at the Hotel de L'Industrie.
Each of the ships will be 167,600 gross tons, significantly smaller than Oasis and Allure of the Seas, which measure 225,282 gross tons, and just slightly smaller than Royal Caribbean's upcoming Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, which will measure 167,800 gross tons.
But the MSC ships will hold more passengers (at double occupancy) than Quantum and Anthem (4,180 passengers), with 2,250 cabins (4,500 double occupancy) and a maximum capacity of 5,700 passengers and 1,536 crewmembers.
"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, a bigger theater and a spectacular amusement park connected to an outdoor aqua park as well as a two-deck 'inside promenade,'" Onorato said.
Among the new features will be specially designed cabins for families and an extended MSC Yacht Club that will include a large solarium, a private lounge and restaurant, and duplex suites.
The line also said the ships will be more environmentally friendly , with a hull and propulsion system optimized for energy efficiency and fuel scrubbers to reduce CO2 emissions.
MSC did not announce where the ships will be deployed, but speculation is high that one will be based in the Mediterranean and another could be deployed in the US.
--By Dori Saltzman, News Editor and Adam Coulter, Senior Editor, Cruise Critic UK