There’s a video on YouTube showing MSC Armonia being cut in two and moved apart, prior to having a new mid-ships sections added. I don’t actually think it’s the best video of this type I’ve ever seen, but perhaps as they do more of the job it will get better.
This story caught my eye because our very first cruise was on Armonia’s sister ship, Sinfonia. That was in May 2005. We enjoyed it greatly, so much so that we’ve cruised as our main holiday ever since. At the time we thought Sinfonia was great, but looking back I can see some areas which we wouldn’t enjoy so much today. The ship was quite crowded, too – 2,000 passengers in a ship of just under 60,000 tons. The effect of the stretch will be to increase her tonnage to 65,000 and her passenger capacity to around 2,600, so the overcrowding will get worse, if anything.
The Lirica class consists of four ships. Armonia and Sinfonia were the first two, and went to Festival Cruises (with different names, of course) in around 2000 or 2001. Festival went out of business in about 2003 or 2004 and the ships were idle for a while. In the meantime MSC had ordered two new builds for their own new cruise operation, and took delivery of Lirica and Opera, to basically the same design as Armonia and Sinfonia, in 2004 and, I think, 2005. At the same time they bought the first two ships from Festival’s receivers, had them ‘MSC-ised’, and thus had the full set. There are detailed differences between the first two and the latter pair, but they’re minor. Since then MSC have expanded dramatically, and these ‘Lirica’ class ships are now by far their smallest. They must be doing well to decide to spend the money on stretching them – all of the class will be stretched over the coming months – although as I say, I fear the effect will be to increase the crowding on board.