After months of speculation MSC Cruises has officially announced that the newest addition to the fleet, and the fourth ship in the “Fantasia Class” will be named MSC PREZIOSA. The negotiations between the line and the shipyard took nine months. MSC takes over the contract for the 139,400 gross ton vessel which is already 45% complete, with her hull and machinery 70% complete. The huge new ship was originally ordered on July 1, 2010 by General National Maritime Transportation Company (GNMTC), part of the Libyan State owned shipping group which up until that time had only operated a fleet of 24 oil tankers and gas carriers. It would have been the first large cruise ship built for an Arab company. The 2011 revolt in Libya and subsequent overthrow of the regime of Moammar Qaddafi doomed the project causing the original owners to default on their payments. The first metal for the ship, known as project X32, was cut on December 15, 2010. Had the ship been completed for the Libyans it was widely specultated that the intended name would have been PHOENICIA. The original delivery date had been slated for December, 2012. After modifications ordered by MSC, the MSC PREZIOSA will now be completed in March, 2013.
The STX France yard at St. Nazaire, formerly known more famously as Chantiers de l’Atlantique, has constructed all of the newbuilds for MSC Cruises. MSC PREZIOSA will be a nearly identical sister ship to the MSC DIVINA which is scheduled to enter service May 26, 2012 following a christening by actress Sophia Loren who has served as Godmother for all of the line’s new buildings since 2003. Both ships are slightly expanded versions of their 137,936 gross ton near-sisterships MSC FANTASIA and MSC SPLENDIDA which entered service in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The two new ships will be 1,094 feet in length with a 125 foot beam. The 1,751 staterooms translate to a total double-occupancy capacity of 3,502 passengers with a maximum capacity of 4,363 berths in all. Onboard there will be 17 guest elevators – including a private elevator for MSC Yacht Club guests – and 14 passenger decks. Guests will be able to enjoy four main restaurants, including two speciality restaurants, 21 bars, a casino, four swimming pools, 12 whirlpools, mini-bowling, a sports area with game courts, a Fitness Center, a children’s area and the singnature MSC Aurea Spa. The overall design was entrusted to De Jorio Design International. Among several unique features, the ship has an aft-facing Infinity Garden Pool and beach area, with spectacular views overlooking the ship’s wake. The MSC DIVINA and the MSC PREZIOSA will become the 12th and 13th additions to the rapidly growing MSC Cruises fleet.
Mr. Pierfrancesco Vago, CEO, MSC Cruises, summed up the company’s decision to complete the four-ships-to- a-class symmetry of the fleet. “The new ship represents an investment of €550 million and will be delivered at the end of March 2013. Negotiations with STX France have lasted over nine months; a significant but understandable period of time considering the importance of the investment and the unexpected nature of the takeover. When MSC Preziosa is delivered we will have four ships of every class, giving us a total capacity of over 40,000 berths and the strength to sail in all seas. MSC Preziosaherself will sail the Mediterranean, exploring the beauty of Greek Islands, which represent the highlight of European cruising.”
The shipyard took a big gamble by continuing work on the new ship after the deal with the Libyans fell apart. Their viewpoint is seen in the released statement from Laurent Castaing, STX France General Manager. “STX France is delighted with this successful outcome after months of negotiations. The length of time necessary to settle them is the perfect illustration of the challenges faced by the cruise industry in terms of financing, which impact our industry directly. It’s the new Achilles’ heel, after competitiveness, on which our efforts are now focused. In this context, the integration of X32 into the prestigious MSC Cruises fleet is a relief and a real pleasure for STX.”
MSC Cruises is the fourth largest cruise company in the world and is a division of Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A. which also operates a massive number of container ships. The fleet cruises year-round in the Mediterranean and seasonally in Northern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, South America, the Indian Ocean, South and West Africa, Abu Dhabi and the Emirates. The passenger fleet is presently made up of 11 ships. The MSC MELODY (ex ATLANTIC, STARSHIP ATLANTIC, MELODY) was built in 1982. All of the others have been constructed on an almost yearly basis since 2001. In order they are the MSC ARMONIA (ex EUROPEAN VISION), MSC SINFONIA (ex EUROPEAN STARS), MSC LIRICA, MSC OPERA , MSC MUSICA, MSC ORCHESTRA, MSC POESIA, MSC MAGNIFICA, MSC FANTASIA and MSC SPLENDIDA. The additions of the MSC DIVINA and MSC PREZIOSA will complete the current program of newbuildings for MSC, but if past performance is any indication, an entirely new class of ship may soon be on the horizon.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.