MSC Cruises is to build two “revolutionary” cruise ships for 2017 and 2018, and has an option for a further ship.

The cruise line today signed a contract worth up to €2.1 billion with Italian shipyard Fincantieri for the new prototype project, codenamed ‘Seaside’.

They will be the largest cruise ships ever built by the shipyard and feature a “revolutionary architectural style” which MSC believes will lead the way for the next generation of cruise ships.

Features include a sea-level promenade that circumnavigates the ship with outdoor spaces, shops and restaurants, a spacious theatre, terraced balcony and panoramic lifts with sea views.

The two new ships will cost €700 million each, with the first scheduled for delivery in November 2017 and the second in May 2018, with an option for one more ship.

The deal follows MSC Cruises’ letter of intent with STX France, signed in March this year. It will allow the cruise line to double the capacity of its fleet to around 80,000 passengers a day by 2022. The line currently has 12 ships.

The ships will be 323 metres long, 41 metres wide and 70 metres in height, with a gross tonnage of 154,000 tons and accommodating 5,300 passengers plus 1,413 crew. The ships will also reduce fuel consumption by 25%.

They will boast 2,070 passenger cabins and 43,500 square metres of public space. According to the cruise line, it will be able to dock at any port worldwide thanks to its design and versatility. Construction will be funded with the support of insurance and financial company SACE.

MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfranscesco Vago said: “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.

“Seaside is a futuristic prototype because of its structure, shape and versatility. We are getting ready for the new and compelling challenge that the construction of these ships represents. It will be a real revolution in the world’s cruise market, an excellent product for its unique and innovative architectural features and cutting-edge technology.”