Shipyard ‘Triple Header’

MSC Cruises celebrates a memorable day at Aker Yards

By: Jonathan Siskin

Sept. 9 marked a milestone in the short history of MSC Cruises as the Italian company moved aggressively to enhance its status as a major player and a force to be reckoned with in the cruise industry. Within the course of a single afternoon at the Aker Yards in St. Nazaire, France, MSC celebrated the floating out of the MSC Orchestra, the cutting of the first strips of steel for the MSC Fantasia and the laying of the initial panels of the MSC Poesia.

At a press conference kicking off the trio of events, MSC Cruises CEO Pierfrancesco Vago noted the significance of the day in regard to the relationship between MSC and Aker.

“Today we commemorate the success of our partnership as we celebrate three events for the same company on the same day,” Vago said. “We at MSC are very pleased with the efforts of the shipyard until now, and look forward to moving ahead together toward achieving future goals.”

A group of European and U.S. press witnessed the MSC Orchestra float out, along with executives from both MSC and Aker. A chartered vessel provided close-up views of the 90,000-ton, 961-foot-long MSC Orchestra as she made her way out of the dock, with the help of tug boats.

Upon her debut in spring 2007, the Orchestra will join sister ship MSC Musica as the second member of the Musica-class of ships. After launching this past June in Venice, Italy, the Musica became the new MSC flagship and ushered in a new generation of MSC ships. Both the Orchestra and the Musica contain public areas totaling 237,000 square feet; 80 percent of their 1,275 cabins are oceanview, while 65 percent come with balconies.

Prior to the float out, media and invited guests gathered in one of Aker’s hangars to watch as engineers maneuvered gigantic plates of steel into position for the cutting ceremony. With the push of a button the high-tech machinery sliced through the steel and construction was officially under way on the MSC Fantasia.

Some 30,000 tons of steel will go into the Fantasia’s hull, and this mammoth 133,500-ton, 1,093-foot-long mega-ship slated for delivery in fall 2008, will become the largest member of the MSC fleet and the biggest single ship ever commissioned by a European ship owner.

With a maximum capacity of 3,900 passengers and 1,300 crew, the 17-deck vessel will contain 1,650 cabins of which 1,260 will have balconies. Among the ship’s special additions is a “happy island” VIP area, consisting of 65 suites, that includes a dedicated reception area and concierge plus its own private pool, sun deck and observation lounge and separate galley for preparing meals and drinks for room service and the lounge.

Other Fantasia amenities include four pools (one with a sliding-glass roof), plus a 1,700-seat main show lounge, health center, casino and collection of shops. Together with sister ship MSC Serenata due in fall 2009, MSC is devoting a whopping total investment of more than $1.2 billion in the construction of the mega-ships.

Not far from the steel cutting, an open area in the shipyard held the first panels for the MSC Poesia. Poesia will join sister ships MSC Musica and MSC Orchestra as the third member of the Musica series upon delivery in spring 2008.

The historic shipyard “triple header” is an impressive feat for any cruise line and especially so for MSC. Barely a blip on the sonar just five years ago, the line has rapidly taken its place in the forefront of passenger cruising and currently has a fleet of eight ships.

The company’s push toward becoming Europe’s leading cruise line began in 2003 with a $5 billion investment in newbuilds. The line’s construction boom began with the MSC Lirica (2003) and MSC Opera (2004). Four additional newbuilds MSC Orchestra, MSC Poesia, MSC Fantasia and MSC Serenata due for delivery between now and 2009, will grow the fleet to 12 ships with more than 28,500 berths.

MSC currently offers cruises in the Mediterranean year-round and also has trans-Atlantic itineraries in Northern Europe, the Caribbean, South America and South Africa. Its corporate headquarters are in Naples, Italy, while MSC’s North American offices are located in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

800-666-9333
www.msccruises.com

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