All photos by Jason Leppert
There's nothing quite as fascinating as seeing a new cruise ship under construction, and MSC Cruises is currently building its MSC Meraviglia (pictured above and in the slideshow below) at the STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire. There the line has signed a letter of intent to build even more new cruise ships through 2026, significantly boosting the French economy in the process.
STX France has already built three prototype cruise ship classes for Geneva-based MSC Cruises: Lirica, Musica and Fantasia, totaling a dozen vessels. The Meraviglia-class is now the fourth consisting of two orders - beginning with the MSC Meraviglia namesake - and two options for larger Meraviglia Plus ships.
However, its the most recent contract to build a fifth World-class and up to four new cruise ships therein that prolongs the success of the French government's economy and local workforce. France 24 is reporting that the latest deal, overseen by President Francois Hollande at the presidential palace, is worth 4 billion euros or $4.5 billion.
STX is a South Korean company, but STX France is, in fact, 33 percent owned by the French state and was recently close to bankruptcy. Should all the options be realized, the historic shipyard - once known as Chantiers de l'Atlantique, builder of such iconic liners as the Normandie and France - will instead be very busy and employ around 3,500 workers through the next decade.
The yard is currently finishing up construction on the world's largest cruise ship - Royal Caribbean International's Harmony of the Seas with another Oasis-class sister ship from the line to follow in 2018. Personally visiting the yard in February, I had the chance to document the latest ship's final assembly as well as capture a bit of the yard itself and the start of the MSC Meraviglia set for launch in 2017.
The slideshow below showcases the process of taking raw steel and wielding it into panels that are joined to form larger blocks and eventually the superstructure and overall ship. Many of the earlier steps are performed indoors with a lot of handwork still crucial to crafting the shape of the ship. Of course, heavy machinery moves the largest pieces about as they are ready to be positioned outside and then lowered into the main building basin.
The MSC Meraviglia still has a long way to go, but the form of the cantilevered promenade deck and especially a portion of the bulbous hull and its bow thrusters are already recognizable. Soon the ship will be complete and ready to plow the seven seas ahead of an ever growing MSC Cruises fleet, proudly under construction at the STX France shipyard.
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