MSC Cruises is entering the increasingly competitive luxury arena with plans for four ships costing more than €2 billion.

The first 500-cabin vessel is due to enter service in spring 2023 with the remaining three beginning operations one a year over the following three years.

The addition of the 64,000-tonne ships means that the European cruise company has a total 17 new vessels to be built by 2027 at an overall cost of €13.6 billion

The luxury ships are to feature the latest environmental technology and other “cutting-edge maritime solutions”.

They will also showcase highly-innovative design as well as introduce ground-breaking options for passenger comfort, according to the line.

They are to be built at Italian ship yard Fincantieri.

MSC Cruises’ executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said: “It is off the back of the great success of our ship-within-a-ship luxury concept that our guests asked us to enter into the ultra-luxury segment, as a natural evolution of the MSC Yacht Club.

“These ships will be able to offer unique itineraries, thanks to their size, and the guest services will be taken to another level, including our personalised MSC Yacht Club butler service, available 24/7.”

He added: “I am especially pleased to be able to further extend our partnership with Fincantieri through this new order.

“The award-winning Seaside and Seaside-Evo class have already been recognised as ground-breaking and innovative designs.

“We are now introducing another new class, which will establish a new standard of ultra-luxury at sea with ships that will showcase the quality and highest standards that are associated with made in Italy.”

Fincantieri CEO Giuseppe Bono added: “We are extremely satisfied that to launch a new class of ships in the luxury segment, MSC Cruises has acknowledged that our project will allow to create a new generation of cutting edge units from both a technological point of view, safety and with particular attention paid to passenger comfort.

“With this project Fincantieri can count on 53 cruise ships in its order book, confirming to be absolute market leader in all the cruise shipbuilding segments”.

The line is introducing two ships in 2019. MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandiosa will be delivered in February and October respectively.