MSC Cruises has finalised the order for a new 3,274 flagship vessel. However the announcement has been clouded by news of an unrelated incident in which one passenger was killed and another critically injured after the gangway on the MSC Splendida collapsed at the Italian port of Genoa.
Dozens of other passengers watched horrified as the metal walkway crashed more than 30ft into the sea taking a 65-year old-Spanish woman and her husband with it.
The victim was named as Maria Mercedes Bonastre, from Barcelona, while the injured man was revealed to be Fausto Del Charro Arraza, 65.
Crew members and dock workers jumped into the water to try and rescue the two passengers but the woman was declared dead at the scene after being pulled aboard by a coastguard launch. Her husband suffered severe head injuries.
The couple were embarking on a seven-night £1,200 Mediterranean cruise taking in Marseilles, Barcelona, Tunis, Malta, Messina and Civitavecchia.
Investigating magistrate Cristina Camaiori said that she was looking into a possible charge of culpable homicide following the tragedy.
Last night MSC Cruises said the Genoa port authorities were to blame.
Director Pier Francesco Vago said: “It seems that the incident happened after a walkway belonging to the maritime station gave way.”
Edoardo Monzani, director of the Port of Genoa, said: “This was a terrible tragedy but the exact dynamics still have to be established - it could even have been caused by the wind which was very strong at the time.”
Splendida was launched last July and is 1,100ft long and carries 3,274 passengers and 1.332 crew.
It has 18 decks as well as theatres, cinemas, a casino and a health spa and she was named last July in Barcelona by veteran Italian actress Sophia Loren.
MSC’s Fantastic will ship be its sister ship, and the 12th addition to the European cruise line’s fleet when it enters service by the summer of 2012.
The new order was confirmed at a ceremony at French shipyard STX France attended by president Nicolas Sarkozy.