MSC Cruises is entering the luxury cruise market for the first time, with a four-ship order from Fincantieri shipyard for a set of identical vessels, each with just 500 cabins and the finest in design and décor.
Even though the ships will only carry around 1,000 passengers, the total order is worth a staggering US $2.3-billion, suggesting MSC Cruises will be investing the bulk of the funds in high-end finish and décor aboard the ships.
For comparison, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas behemoth, the first of the ‘largest cruise ships in the world’, carrying 6,200 passengers and with a gross tonnage of 225,200, cost just US $1.4-billion to build.
MSC Cruises officials have confirmed the ships will have 500 cabins each and will be much smaller than the cruise line’s new behemoths such as MSC Bellissima, which carries up to 4,500 passengers and will be deployed in the Dubai cruise market next year.
The order sees MSC Cruises bringing its unique Italian cruise brand into a space currently dominated by Silversea Cruises, France’s Ponant, Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas. It unclear whether the new ships will sail as MSC Cruises or whether the line will launch a subsidiary.
All of the cruise lines above are part of the larger cruise corporations Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines.
MSC’s move comes at a time when the luxury cruising sector is becoming increasingly competitive. In June, Royal Caribbean acquired its controlling stake in Silversea for US $1-billion. That money was quickly put to work with a multi-ship order a few weeks later.
New cruise operators are also entering the luxury segment. Ritz-Carlton, Marriott International’s luxury hotel chain, last year ordered three luxury ships that look like megayachts, which have 149 cabins.
Although itineraries and prices are yet to be announced, MSC Cruises have said that prices per person sharing for a 7-week cruise will go for around US $6,000, putting these new ships in the same price bracket as Seabourn and Silversea.
By comparison, staterooms in the MSC Yacht Club aboard its existing fleet go for around US $3,500 on a similar length cruise.
“Our top cabins on existing ships sell out very fast, and we expect strong demand for a product that will be more luxurious,” an MSC official said. “The plan is to order more such ships in the future.”
Itineraries will include destinations on the US West Coast, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.