The two ships will join MSC Cruises' fleet, currently counting 12 ships, all built in the Saint-Nazaire yards.
MSC Cruises signed a letter of intent (LOI) with STX France for the construction of two new cruise ships with an option for two more.
The signature took place at the Hotel de L'Industrie in Paris.
The first two cruise ships are due for delivery respectively in 2017 and 2019. The ships will be 1033 feet long and 141 feet wide, with a gross tonnage of about 167,600 tons, boasting 2,250 cabins for guests, nearly 820 crew cabins, and accommodating 5,700 passengers and 1,536 crew members.
"The new prototype will be the biggest cruise ship ever built by a European ship owner and the most versatile and flexible of the world: not only will it be able to call in most of the ports and destinations on earth, without compromise, but it will have extraordinary features that will make it the perfect choice at sea, in summer and in winter. The two new ships will reaffirm MSC Cruises' dedication to outstanding and genuine dining options and out-of-this-world entertainment with new panoramic spaces, a bigger theatre and a spectacular amusement park connected to an outdoor aqua park as well as a two-deck 'inside promenade'," explained Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises.
Among the new features of the ships will be specially designed cabins for families and an extended MSC Yacht Club, the entirely self-contained private club on the prestigious foredecks that will now be completed with a vast solarium, a private lounge and restaurant and duplex suites.
The new prototype is the result of a long development process, conducted in the framework of STX's ECORIZON ® programme, leading to the creation of a new generation of ships that are cleaner, more efficient and more technological. They will be water emission free, while its hull and propulsion system will be optimised for better energy efficiency. The installation of scrubbers will allow for fumes to be neutralised and CO2 emissions to be in accordance with the latest evolutions of international maritime regulations.
The contract signed is worth 16 million working hours for STX France and its subcontractors, 9 million for the prototype and 7 million for the second unit. Building is due to start in spring 2015. The contract will be binding when the financial package is secured.