The Travel Detective

Inside the Construction of a Cruise Ship

Image Credit: Stephanie Ervin

Locations in this article:  Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates Dubai, United Arab Emirates

There are dozens of shipyards around the world, all of which are running at full capacity. That’s because more than 20 million people worldwide take cruises annually, and that number is expected to continue to grow in the years to come. So the cruise industry is desperately trying to keep up with demand. That includes MSC Cruises, which has 14 ships and three others currently under construction. In fact, the company is set to nearly triple its capacity by 2026.

Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, explains the company’s idea for the interior of the MSC Meraviglia: “We wanted to recreate a street. A street of a European city. We will have lots of shops, lots of restaurants, a lot of bars, lots of different eating places. We’re building a street that will actually look like a 1900s European city,” Vago explains. The ship will include a promenade with architecture from the 1900s, and a new glass building exterior for different activities like broadcasting TV entertainment.

Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, explains the challenges and opportunities within the cruise industry. “Unfortunately, there are only three shipyards in the world, which can really build the new ships. They can actually build in the range of two ships per year each. So there’s a limitation also to the construction of new ships,” Onorato says.

“The new ships are bigger but most of all, they’re richer,” Onorato continues. “Richer services, richer of amenities. And repeat guests, they love that, so they do not mind to go again to the same place but we have opened up for example the Middle East. We’ve never been in the past, with beautiful destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, we’re going down in Qatar for the first time. The world really, really has a lot of opportunities for cruising.”

Arnold Donald is the CEO of Carnival Corporation, which has a combined fleet of more than 100 vessels across ten cruise line brands. He says there are always reasons to upgrade his ships. He shares, “One of the reasons why you’re always going to build new vessel is because they’re far more efficient. More fuel efficient. The designs are more updated in the terms of outside cabins. They command higher premium prices from the guests in terms of types of cabins. They’re more efficient in the use of manpower on board to service the guests. They have more features to create the type of guest experience that you want on board. So new ships will always be built. The question is how fast will you replace the ships.”

Norwegian Cruise Line currently has 16 ships, controlling about eight percent of the total worldwide share of the cruise industry. President and CEO Andy Stuart says one of the keys to success in building his fleet is getting feedback from the consumers. “We’re working really hard to listen to guests. If we build another ship, what would you want on the ship, what would be the next thing?” says Stuart. He believes that guests want great food, new choices, and fantastic entertainment.

As for the MSC Meraviglia and Seaside, they both officially set sail in 2017 through Europe and the Caribbean, respectively. In fact, because of high demand, MSC opened sales for the pair of ships nearly two years in advance. Gianni Onorato says the future is bright, not just for MSC, but for the cruise industry as a whole. He explains, “That’s why we are building so many ships, and we are investing so many millions of dollars, because we do believe that this is for the next I’d say 25 years to come at least, this will be a more modern way of taking a holiday. So we have a huge opportunity for growth.”

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By the Peter Greenberg Worldwide team for