MSC Cruises is bullish about growing its fleet and expanding its presence in select cruising grounds worldwide.
On Thursday, the Italian cruise operator announced it had signed a contract with European shipyard Fincantieri to build two new cruise ships with an option for a third vessel.
The ships represent a new prototype of vessel dubbed "Seaside," and will cost about $956 million each, MSC said.
The new 154,000-gross-ton ships will accommodate up to 5,300 passengers and 1,413 crew members, and are slated to join its fleet in November 2017 and May 2018 respectively.
"From the moment we started talking with Fincantieri, we had in mind to design and build two completely new ships, revolutionary in their structure, unlike anything that exists on the market today," MSC Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said, in a statement. "Seaside is a futuristic prototype because of its structure, shape and versatility."
MSC, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland, operates its U.S. division from Fort Lauderdale.
The "Seaside" cruise prototype will sport unique features such as a sea-level promenade that circumnavigates the sides of the vessel with outdoor spaces, shops and restaurants, MSC said.
Additionally, the ships will feature a striking and spacious theatre, terraced balcony and panoramic lifts with sea views. Both ships will also boast various environmentally-friendly technologies that will reduce fuel consumption by 25 percent and advanced safety systems.
"With the arrival of the new ships we will reach a capacity of about 80,000 passengers a day," MSC CEO Gianni Onorato said, noting that Thursday's ship order is the final piece in the company's plan to double its fleet capacity by 2022.
In March, MSC also announced an order for two new ships with shipyard STX France, with an an option for two more. The first two are slated for delivery in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
The new Seaside cruise ships will most likely be deployed on itineraries in the Mediterranean, South America and Caribbean, MSC said.
MSC currently has 12 ships in its fleet including the 4,345-passenger MSC Divina that debuted at PortMiami in November 2013 for sailings to the Caribbean. Divina left Miami Monday on a Grand Voyage to South America and will spend a short stint in Brazil as a charter for the World Cup. Divina returns to Miami Aug. 2 to resume Caribbean sailings through mid-April 2015.
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