According to these sources (MSC's North America public relations representatives did not respond to our request for comment), Aponte is negotiating with major shipyards to build a 150,000-ton, 3,000-plus-passenger vessel -- somewhere between Cunard's Queen Mary 2, currently the biggest ship ever built, and Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, the ship that will steal that title next spring. The Italian-born, Swiss-based ship owner reportedly said he'd like to take delivery of this new flagship in 2008.
What is notable about this quasi-announcement is that MSC Cruises has a major ambition to become a player in the big-ship arena. The line, whose first-ever new-builds (MSC Lirica and MSC Opera) still fit into the mid-size category at 58,600 tons and 1,560 passengers, has a pair of sister ships under construction at France's Chantiers de l'Atlantique -- 90,000-ton, 2,550-passenger vessels that qualify as Panamax. If that name sounds familiar, it is because that shipyard also built Cunard's Queen Mary 2 (as well as Celebrity's Millennium-class ships, Crystal Serenity and RSSC's Seven Seas Mariner).
Clearly, though, this indication by Aponte of a desire for a post-Panamax style ship would mean another leap for a cruise line that is widely seen to be competing with Carnival Corp.'s Costa Cruises.
Curious about the MSC experience? Check out our recent review of its latest new-build -- MSC Opera.
We'll keep you posted.