MSC Grandiosa – labelled by MSC Cruises as its “most innovative ship to date” – has now entered service
The ship is the third Meraviglia-class ship but stands out because it is a ‘stretched’ version of MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima, being 15.6 m longer.
Chantiers de l’Atlantique is building the Meraviglia-class vessels. Its vice president of projects and ship performance Stéphane Cordier tells Passenger Ship Technology, “After you deliver the prototype ship and the second one, you get a very good idea of what the potential of the ship is in terms of possible growth, how it is working in terms of restaurants and elevators and all operational matters and whether the ship is performing well enough to support additional passengers.”
The stretch has allowed MSC Cruises to add 196 more cabins for an extra 270 passengers. MSC Grandiosa has 2,440 cabins, and is 177,000 gt compared to 171,000 gt.
Mr Cordier comments “This is a classic stretch, inserting a new segment of the ship in the middle. It is comparable to stretching an existing ship where you integrate a slice in the existing fire zone without modifying the hull form.”
The ship deploys hybrid exhaust gas cleaning systems, as do the earlier ships of the class, and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) solution, which, MSC Cruises says, leads to 97% less sulphur oxide and 80% less nitrogen oxide.
Their installation was a challenge due to space requirements. They are stacked with the heat recovery systems and acoustic dampeners. “The SCRs are fitted on each of the diesel exhausts lower down in the casing and required some modifications of the casing dimension and boiler configuration as the stacks take up the whole height of the superstructure” says Mr Cordier.
Like its sister vessels, MSC Grandiosa is powered by an all-electrical plant consisting of four 12-cylinder diesel engines. Mr Cordier comments “The number of engines allows them to run at higher power at quayside and contributes to the excellent energy efficiency of the ship. Furthermore, it is a more compact and cost-effective arrangement.”
The propulsion is based on two ABB 2300 Azipods at 40 MW. This is a gearless steerable propulsion system where the electric drive motor is in a submerged pod outside the ship’s hull, driving a five-bladed propeller which was adapted from the previous ships to match the modified operating conditions.
Azipods were used to “enable more independence from tug operations and provide low-speed manoeuvrability, while achieving excellent powering performance and contractual speeds,” Mr Cordier says.
Reduced noise and vibration are another benefit as the propeller experiences minimum wake perturbations.
The hydrodynamics of the hull ensure contractual speed at limited power and used computational fluid dynamics to achieve this.
Following the stretch, the four-engine diesel plant is placed aft of midship. “These engines combined with an all-electric plant make this the natural position,” explains Mr Cordier. “They form the centre of gravity of the vessel together with fuel storage and the general arrangement and superstructure. In this case we still manage to have a very good positioning of the longitudinal centre of gravity.”
He described one of the design implications of the stretch on MSC Grandiosa concerning the longitudinal position of the engines and funnel. “The advantage of the midship stretch is that the length of the pool deck is increased while the after deck, which may be affected by smoke, is not lengthened. This is one of the reasons why we have the engines placed slightly aft – to have better space forward from the exhaust.”
The Meraviglia-class vessels have been built integrating the advances of the Ecorizon programme developed by the shipyard, to reduce the environmental footprint of the ships it builds while securing their economic profitability.
Benefits include an advanced propulsion system, no discharge at sea and an optimised hull for better energy efficiency. There is also a heat recovery system patented by Chantiers de l’Atlantique that will enable significant annual fuel savings and a decrease in CO2 produced, through recovery of the heat generated by diesel alternators. The recovered heat is used for purposes including warm sanitary water and to produce fresh water.
Cirque du Soleil design impact
MSC Grandiosa includes Cirque du Soleil at Sea, with two new shows. MSC Cruises vice president of newbuilding and refurbishment Trevor Young highlights the design of the area needed for Cirque du Soleil at Sea. He says “Due to the shows featuring highly trained acrobats and artists, you need specific equipment and the latest technology. The technology is so specific that the challenge is to get that in with the rigging they need.”
Mr Young says calculations involving weight, power load and heat must be considered in the overall design. The amount of heat coming from the equipment meant more air conditioning was needed in the show space.
Due to these demands, MSC Cruises employed someone to project manage Cirque du Soleil, working with them on the designs, structure and infrastructure of the show area.
Mr Young adds “There are massive challenges, but it has paid off very well – it is hugely successful, always full and an interesting, fun, concept to have on a vessel. Our guests love it.”
An important strategy for both the current fleet and newbuilds is to create a “brand within brands”.
While MSC Cruises is the overall brand, different classes of vessels become the sub brand and within that, certain areas, restaurants and bars become brands themselves.
Mr Young points to the English pub in World-class and on Meraviglia-class. It is being updated to include an enhanced entertainment space. “We are adding entertainment elements so the area becomes a destination. The first one will be seen on MSC Grandiosa.”
MSC Cruises has launched its artificial intelligence and machine learning-based cabin concierge Zoe – a first of its kind for the cruise industry – which was first unveiled on MSC Bellissima and is on MSC Grandiosa.
The digital cruise assistant was developed by the MSC innovation department along with experts from connected technology specialist Harman, part of Samsung Electronics.
Zoe is not linked to a cloud system but to an onboard server, as MSC Cruises wants to ensure a very rapid connection independent from the satellite
It gives the opportunity to provide answers to frequent customers’ questions. Zoe will start with 800 answers, but being an artificial intelligence product, it will learn by use.
MSC Cruises chief business innovation officer Luca Pronzati tells Passenger Ship Technology about the huge operation involved in bringing Zoe to life.
The system underwent extensive testing in areas such as speech recognition, transforming speech to text and vice versa, and other behavioural and performance tests. Some 400 people trained Zoe, which speaks seven languages. The aim is to increase this to 10.
Mr Pronzati says “We started a project phase, analysing seven languages and all the different accents of these languages had to be taken into consideration. There are so many different accents for each language – we had to map all the accents and understand what the best combination of accents was, to record and cover 80% of each language.”
Meraviglia-class: swapping from scrubbers to LNG
The most significant development within the Meraviglia-class is that the fifth ship to be built will use LNG – a departure from the rest in the class, which are equipped with scrubbers. The fifth in class will be based on the same stretched design as MSC Grandiosa.
When MSC Cruises initially designed its Meraviglia-class ships in 2013, there were “still a lot of technical and infrastructure constraints around LNG” as a fuel option for cruise ships.
Therefore, an MSC Cruises spokesperson explains, when it placed the order for four Meraviglia-class ships with Chantiers de l’Atlantique, they were not planned to run on LNG. But as a lot of progress was made in the following years, it started considering building LNG-fuelled ships.
In 2015 the cruise operator designed its World class, which was conceived to run on LNG from the very beginning. “In 2016 we placed an order for four World-class ships with Chantiers. However, due to the shipyard’s orderbook constrains, work could only commence in late 2019. We cut steel for MSC Europa, our first World-class ship on 31 October.” It will be delivered in 2022.
An MSC Cruises spokesperson tells Passenger Ship Technology “As we made progress in this space, we started exploring equipping ships within Meraviglia-class with LNG. We faced considerable challenges as LNG tanks take more than double the space of standard fuel tanks. It would require a fundamental redesign of the ship’s interior spaces, affecting both crew and passenger areas.
“Despite the challenges, we worked hard to develop a plan for our fifth ship in the Meraviglia-class, an additional order we placed in 2018. This ship will be powered by LNG and will be significantly different to the other four.”
The spokesperson adds “In terms of environmental performance, it also needs to be pointed out that hybrid ESCGs (scrubbers) ensure air emissions that are actually in line with, if not better than, low sulphur marine gas oil currently in use. Our latest ship MSC Grandiosa, our third Meraviglia-class ship, is equipped with such a hybrid EGCS system.”
In terms of the impact of LNG on the design of the ship, Mr Cordier explains “That involved a total redesign of the lower part of the ship to accommodate the tanks. It worked well with the stretched version, although we had to relocate some of the crew space. The challenge has been in terms of space. The platform supported the changes quite well. The associated gains in energy consumption, CO2, NOx, Sox and particulate emissions will make this vessel one of the most environmentally friendly cruise vessels.”
Four Wärtsilä dual-fuel engines have been selected. “It means fitting a different diesel engine model but on the propulsion side nothing was changed.”
Snapshot CV: Stéphane Cordier (Chantiers de l’Atlantique)
Mr Cordier is currently vice president at Chantiers de l’Atlantique, and also head of ship performance. He was previously head of naval and specialised projects at Chantiers de l’Atlantique.
Other positions have included chief naval architect at DGA and technical director at the Bassin d’essais des carènes.
Mr Cordier’s education includes a DSc in fluid mechanics from the George Washington University and an MSc in naval architecture (hydrodynamics) from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.