MSC Cruises has announced it is retiring the oldest ship in its fleet, MSC Melody, after some 17 years of service with the line.
MSC is positioning the sale as part of an overall “focus on cutting-edge technology.” Originally built in 1982 as Atlantic, the 35,000-ton, 1,000-passenger Melody is the smallest ship in MSC's fleet as well as the oldest, having sailed with MSC since 1995.
News of Melody's retirement comes just ahead of the launch of MSC's newest ship, Preziosa, in March.
A statement from the line said that passengers who had booked onboard Melody for already scheduled sailings would have a "vast array of alternative choices."
The statement continued: "Over the next few days these passengers will all be contacted, either directly by the company or through partner travel agents, and informed about all possible options including an upgrade on board one of the other beautiful ships in the MSC fleet."
MSC has moved Opera and Sinfonia to the southern hemisphere for the 2012/2013 "summer" season there. MSC Opera is currently based in Durban, South Africa, sailing three-and four-night cruises to Mozambique until 21 February, 2013, before a brief stint in Cape Town, South Africa, and eventual return to the Mediterranean in March. MSC Sinfonia is sailing short cruises from Cape Town and longer cruises from Durban until the ship departs for Italy on 15 April, 2013.
MSC has denied a report that the ship has been sold to a South Korean company, which was originally posted on the Daily Mirror's Captain Greybeard blog in early August.
"Melody has been bought by a South Korean company which plans to establish a regular service between Shanghai and the island of Jeju," the blog reported at the time. Speculation about the sale was based on a July announcement by Korea's Lotus Mine Cruises that a cruise ship, similar in size to Melody, had been purchased to serve as a bi-weekly ferry for Chinese tourists coming to the Korean-owned island of Jeju in the East China Sea. Ferry service is expected to start in February 2013, and is expected to bring 100,000 tourists a year to Jeju, according to Korea's Yohap News agency.
In 2009, while on a repositioning cruise, Melody was attacked by Somali pirates about 300 miles from the Seychelles. Six men aboard a speedboat drew alongside and started firing at the bridge. Passengers threw deckchairs and tables at the boat before security crew used water hoses and pistol fire to repel the boarding attempt. The pirates abandoned their attack and were later captured by a Spanish frigate forming part of the international defense fleet.
--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor