MSC Cruises is to increase capacity out of Southampton in summer 2019 by replacing MSC Magnifica with the larger and newer MSC Prezioza‎.

The 139,072-tonne Prezioza entered service in March 2013 and is the last of the line’s four Fantasia-class ships. It carries 4,345 passengers, 740 more than the 95,128-tonne Magnifica which began operations in 2010.

Revealing the increase in capacity for 2019, MSC Cruises chief executive Gianni Onorato said it was all part of an ambition to become “the leading international player in the UK market” within five years.

He said: “MSC represents 10% of the cruise market worldwide and we need to reach 10% in the UK. We are currently just under 5% but with Magnifica next summer and Prezioza the summer after, we will do it – but not without the strong support of the trade. 99% of our efforts will go on our travel agents. It’s not our strategy to go direct. As has happened in other markets like Brazil, Italy and France where we have become the leader, it’s been driven by agents, and we believe with their help we can do it in the UK.”

‎Speaking at the launch of the line’s newest ship MSC Seaside, Onorato said MSC would secure agents’ support, not just through healthy commissions but by investing in a product that gives agents complete confidence to sell and which will generate repeat bookings.

‎And UK & Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso promised to get more agents on board MSC ships in 2018 to give them better product knowledge.

“In 2017 alone we had 1,100 agents visiting MSC ships, 300 of which were on our new ship Meragvilia.

“Next year, Magnifica will make 23 turnaround calls in Southampton an we’ll have another 25 calls in British and Irish ports from other ships as well. That’s 48 calls in total and we’ll invite 200 agents onboard for lunch and a tour at each,” he promised.

‎In total, four different classes of MSC ships will call in the UK next year.

‎Onorato said Prezioza, like Magnifica for 2018, would have tweaks made to the onboard entertainment and food to ensure it fully caters for the UK market.

He said the fact it has both and indoor and outdoor pool would make it perfect for ex-Southampton sailings when the weather isn’t always favourable.

Onorato added that MSC would also make it easier for British and Irish‎ guests to get to its fly-cruises in future to help achieve his desired growth.

“We need to have more and more programmes that appeal to UK and Irish guests, so that means more itineraries to the Caribbean and Med in particular – and more regional flights from the UK and charters to get them there.‎”