MSC has become one of the standard bearers of the 'Italy afloat' lifestyle

MSC has become one of the standard bearers of the ‘Italy afloat’ lifestyle

MSC Armonia has entered a Fincantieri dry dock in Palermo, Sicily, for a major ‘chop and stretch’ operation that will create more balcony cabins, as well as a vastly enhanced set of new facilities for children and teens. The ship arrived in Palermo on August 31st, and work was put in hand immediately.

A pre built mid section, some twenty four metres long and containing one hundred and ninety-four new cabins, will be inserted after the operation to cut the 58,000 ton ship in half. MSC Armonia is one of four similarly sized vessels in the MSC fleet. Over the next year or so, the other three ships- MSC Lirica, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Opera- will also undergo similar drastic surgery.

In all, the work is expected to take some seventeen weeks. MSC Armonia is scheduled to leave dry dock on November 17th to make a repositioning voyage for her second season of seven night, winter Canary Islands cruises. Her new passenger capacity will be in the region of 1,960, based on double occupancy.

As well as the vast structural expansion, MSC Armonia will be enhanced by the addition of new children’s and teen clubs, and a lavish new water park. A new lounge will be added, and the lido buffet opening hours extended in order to provide a twenty hour a day food service. The main restaurant will also be expanded to cope with the projected passenger increase of three hundred and ninety two extra people per week. The ship’s MSC Aurea Spa will also be the recipient of significant upgrades.

Originally built in France in 2001 as the European Vision for the now defunct Festival Cruises, the MSC Armonia came over to her current owners in 2004. She was one of the key elements in the initial, dramatic expansion of MSC Cruises, but has in the past few years been overshadowed by huge new builds such as the MSC Magnifica and MSC Divina.

The extension of the ship makes perfect sense, in view of the ongoing pursuit of the multi-cultural family market by MSC Cruises as a whole. The four sisters as a whole have far fewer balcony cabins than their larger siblings, and less in the way of restaurant choices. The Palermo project should provide all four ships with useful, cost effective life extensions, making them more competitive in the future, but at the same time not quite so big as, and more personal than their larger siblings.

The project as whole is fascinating and multi-faceted on many levels, and the refurbished, renewed MSC Armonia should be a formidable competitor on the winter Canaries run.

As ever, stay tuned.

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