After weeks of swirling rumours, news has come from Italian giant, MSC, on the next phase of the line’s direction.
Firstly, the line’s first ever dedicated newbuild, the MSC Lirica of 2003, will be lengthened to accommodate an extra two hundred cabins. The work is intended to be completed before the ship’s projected deployment to South America next winter, as part of a four ship line up which will also include the larger Preziosa, Poesia, and Magnifica.
As things currently stand, MSC Lirica comes in at just over 58,000 tons, and has a length of 830 feet (253 metres in new money). Built by Chantiers of Saint Nazaire, France, she presently accommodates 1,560 passengers in some 780 cabins.
No shipyard has yet been announced for the work, but the timescale almost certainly means the cancellation of at least a significant part of the MSC Lirica’s 2014 cruise schedule.
This also throws up the question of whether her twin sister, MSC Opera, is also slated for eventual similar expansion. With the line’s commitment to ever larger ships and continuing economies of scale, it seems much more likely than not.
In another move, MSC has announced that it will deploy the MSC Orchestra to Australia and the Far East next winter, after a season out of Dubai. Thus, the line emulates the moves of rivals such as Carnival, Celebrity and principally, Costa, in deploying a major ship ‘down under’.
And rumours of impending new builds continue to be floated, if not yet confirmed, by the company. Reports are that MSC is looking at building two new ships, with an option for a further pair at a later date. These new vessels would not be longer than the existing ships in the Splendida class; the line has concerns about being able to berth them in certain ports, and have apparently ruled out building longer vessels.
One possibility is that the new ships will be wider; if so, this would follow a trend inaugurated by Norwegian Cruise Line in the design of the Norwegian Epic in 2010, and subsequently emulated by the giant, groundbreaking Oasis and Allure Of The Seas.
One interesting story that surfaced a few years ago was that MSC might actually be contemplating a giant catamaran kind of design. If so, this would be the first since the former Radisson Diamond, a 20,000 ton design from 1992. Much was made at the time of the excellent stability of the Radisson Diamond design, but her main service speed was actually very low, and definitely hurt the itineraries she could offer.
With the benefits of two decades of advances in technology, it is possible that MSC has managed to find a way to solve that speed conundrum. And such a design would certainly be a striking, truly newsworthy coup in PR/publicity terms.
As always, stay tuned for updates.