MSC Cruises has become the latest line to launch a modernization of an older ship class, pledging $273 million to upgrade its four Lirica-class ships built between 2003 and 2005

The four ships will be lengthened and given 193 additional cabins, raising their capacity from about 2,000 passengers to 2,680, MSC said. They will also get a splash park with a pathway of water cannons and features as well as a perfumery with display corners for leading brands.

Italy's Fincantieri will handle the refurbishment, starting with the Armonia in August. It plans to continue with the Sinfonia and Opera and finish with the Lirica in late 2015.

"When our four Lirica-class ships return to the seas after a total of 38 weeks in drydock, they will be entirely new ships with additional amenities and comfort for our travelers," said MSC President Gianni Onorato.

The cabins to be added will increase the number of balcony staterooms, helping the ships compete with more modern alternatives.

Following disposal of the 30-year-old Melody last year, MSC's Lirica-class ships are the oldest in its fleet.

Many cruise lines are now renovating older ships to add features that have been created for newer ships. Celebrity Cruises has put many features of its Solstice class on its older Millennium-class vessels, for example, and Carnival Cruise Lines is retrofitting its older ships as they come to drydock with the innovations of its Fun Ship 2.0 package.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI