Entertainment on board the Vista ships will be showcased by exclusive performances from Cirque du Soleil staged in purpose-built dining and entertainment venues.
The two new 1,092ft Plus ships will have some of the largest passenger capacity in the world at up to 6,300 – just a hundred or so less than Royal Caribbean’s upcoming Harmony of the Seas – but with a more modest gross tonnage of 177,100 against Harmony’s 227,000. They will debut in 2019 and 2020, two years ahead of the original construction schedule when they were yet-to-be-confirmed options.
The announcement of two more ships on the order books was made by MSC executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago at the Brittany STX yard where the line’s first two Vista class smartships, Meraviglia and Seaside, are being built.
He said: “The two Meraviglia-Plus vessels will be even larger and longer as well as richer in features and amenities, thus confirming MSC Cruises as the industry’s boldest innovator when it comes to ship design and experiences we create for our guests.”
The 167,600 ton, up to 5,714 passenger Meraviglia – lead ship of MSC’s Vista vessels – will come into service in June next year, followed by sister ship Seaside in December, and was undergoing the traditional, centuries-old coin ceremony where shipyard workers place a coin deep in the ship’s 1,039ft hull for good luck.
Steak and ships: CGI of the steakhouse restaurant on MSC Meravigliva
Besides magic mirrors in clothes shops, her revolutionary technology will see the creation of an 317ft long indoor promenade at the heart of the ship with an arched 5,400 sq ft LED roof which can project blue skies, migrating birds, starry skies or images of destinations (there will a 366ft long version on the two bigger Plus ships).
Seating around 600 but with ample room for more passengers to stroll around, the indoor prom will have shops, cafes such as a venue from US celebrity pastry chef Jean-Philippe Maury with his signature chocolate fountains, restaurants and an English pub, karaoke bar and 24hr TV studio.
Other facilities on board will see the installation of a full size bowling alley and Formula One racing car simulators.
Outside there’s a sleek, contemporary look for the pool areas and an array of slides in a water park.
Mocked up cabins were on view at STX too and they exuded the cool chic of a modern boutique hotel.
Chic sleep: mock-up of a cabin on MSC Meravigliva at the French shipyard
Sister ship Seaside will have many of the same on-board offerings but will not feature the indoor promenade. Instead she will get a more traditional outdoor wrapround walkway much lower down than on most other modern ships so passengers are nearer the water to get the feeling of being on a quayside at sea, with shops, bars and restaurants lining the area.
She will home port in Miami year round to discover the Unesco world heritage sites of Cuba and other Caribbean hotspots. Mr Onorato said she will be “the ship that follows the sun”.
Meraviglia will be christened at Le Havre on June 1, 2017 and spend her inaugural season in the Mediterranean, home porting in Marseille.