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MSC is chasing Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean for the ‘biggest cruise operator in the world’ title, with plans to build two megaships.

The line signed a contract with ship-building company, Fincantieri today for an additional two ships with an option for a third.

The new ships are in addition to the line’s existing contract for two 5,700-passenger ships placed in March this year.

The new contract will cost the line AU$3.2 billion.

The first ship is expected to be delivered in November 2017 and the second in May 2018.

Each ship will carry 5,300 passengers in 2,070 cabins and according to the cruise line they will be built “completely different from an architectural point of view”.

Calling it The Seaside prototype, the ships will be fitted with unique features such as a sea-level promenade that circumnavigates the sides of the ship with outdoor spaces, shops and restaurants.

In addition, Seaside will also feature a theatre, a terraced balcony and panoramic lifts with sea views.

“From the moment we started talking with Fincantieri, we had in mind to design and build two completely new ships, revolutionary in their structure, unlike anything that exists on the market today,” MSC executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said.

“Seaside is a futuristic prototype because of its structure, shape and versatility.”

With the two new megaships plus the two other ships already in construction, MSC Cruises’ total fleet will increase to 16 vessels, placing the line behind the world’s biggest cruise operators, Carnival Cruise Lines [23 ships] and Royal Caribbean [21 ships].

In addition to the new ships, MSC Cruises is also adding extra capacity in its Lirica-class shipsMSC Armonia, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Lirica and MSC Opera.

MSC Cruises Australia and New Zealand managing director Lynne Clarke said the latest order was further proof of the cruise line’s positive steps towards capturing a larger share of the growing global cruise market.

“This comes as exciting news not only for us but for our Australian and New Zealand customers,” she said.

“We are entering a new era in cruising.”