MSC Cruises Announces Big Ship Plans

April 8, 2005

In an interview with European media, Gianluigi Aponte, the owner of MSC Cruises (which operates ships such as MSC Lirica and MSC Opera), has outlined plans for the company's next new-build -- and his ambitions are a whopper!

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.