MSC Cruises, which operates ships from Southampton, has announced orders for two new vessels.

The company has signed a letter of intent with STX France for the construction of two new cruise ships, with an option for two more.

The two ships will join MSC Cruises’ fleet, currently comprising 12 ships, all built in the Saint-Nazaire yards.

The two ships are due for delivery in 2017 and 2019.

With a gross tonnage of about 167,600 tons, and boasting 2,250 cabins for guests, the ships will carry 5,700 passengers and 1,536 crew members.

The company already operates MSC Magnifica, and MSC Opera out of Southampton. Among the new features of the latest ships will be specially designed cabins for families and an “extended” MSC Yacht Club, the entirely self-contained private club on the prestigious foredecks that will now be completed with a vast solarium, a private lounge and restaurant and duplex suites.

MSC Cruises’ executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said: “Growth and development have always been the characteristics that have defined MSC since the very beginning of our journey into the world of cruising.

“The launch of this prototype and the building of these two new ships confirm our commitment to further growth and to further development. MSC Cruises will expand its capacity by 31 per cent – we will incredibly enrich our offerings on board and will broaden our horizons to ensure we meet the growing global demand in every region.”

Gianni Onorato, chief executive of MSC Cruises, added: “The new prototype will be the biggest cruise ship ever built by a European ship owner, and the most versatile and flexible of the world – not only will it be able to call in most of the ports and destinations on earth, without compromise, but it will have extraordinary features that will make it the perfect choice at sea, in summer and in winter.

“The two new ships will reaffirm MSC Cruise’s dedication to outstanding and genuine dining options and out-of-this-world entertainment with new panoramic spaces, a bigger theatre and a spectacular amusement park connected to an outdoor aqua park as well as a two-deck ‘inside promenade’.”