In seguito all’accaduto l’Armatore decide di dare una svolta e un rinnovamento totale alla neo Compagnia. Matura quindi l’idea di acquistare altre navi di seconda mano. Nel 1994 arrivano Symphony, classe 1951, ex Provence ed Enrico C. e Monterey, entrata in servizio nel 1952 con il nome di Free State Mariner. Nel 1995 entra in flotta la Rhapsody, nata come Cunard Princess nel 1974. Infine, nel 1997, Aponte acquista la Starship Majesty, da quel momento Melody. Quest’ultima sarà l’ammiraglia della flotta fino al 2003. Ma Aponte era sempre in continua evoluzione e alla ricerca di successo e nonostante i nuovi acquisti, non si sentiva sicuro in merito al decollo del suo nuovo settore. Coscientemente si rese conto che le navi da crociera usate non costituivano il suo fiore all’occhiello e fermamente convinto che la sua azienda per poter competere con gli altri armatori europei avesse bisogno di più navi e di buone navi, decise quindi di rinnovare ulteriormente la flotta con delle unità che potessero distinguerlo e farlo emergere. Dunque entra in contatto con gli Chantier de l’Atlantique di Saint Nazaire per l’ordine di due nuove unità.
After that, Aponte decided to make a change and a total renovation of the new Company. This is how the idea of buying other second-hand vessels came up to his mind. In 1994 Simphony joins the family: it was built in 1951, former Provence and Enrico C. and Monterey, and took up service in 1952 under the name of Free State Mariner. In 1995 it enters the Rhapsody fleet, born as Cunard Princess in 1974. Finally, in 1997 Aponte acquired Starship Majesty, renamed Melody; this last one would have been the flagship of the fleet until 2003. But Aponte was always looking for success and despite his new purchases, he didn’t feel safe on the takeoff of his new industry. He soon realized that second-hand cruises did not constitute his pride and as he was firmly convinced that his Company needed more and better ships in order to compete with other European owners, he decided to modernize the fleet with new vessels which could give the company a good-looking appearance. Therefore he established contacts with the Chantier de l’Atlantique in Saint Nazaire for the production of two new units.
Per rinforzare la struttura della sua azienda nel 2003 nomina amministratore delegato Pierfrancesco Vago, marito di sua figlia Alexa. Nello stesso anno MSC prende in consegna MSC Lirica, la prima grande nave costruita da Aponte e battezzata da Sophia Loren, e in questa occasione a Napoli l’Armatore affermerà: “Investiamo nelle crociere per creare un’azienda che dia un buon rendimento e non per fare guerra ad altri”. La sua lungimiranza è stata ricompensata, perché è riuscito a capire che le prospettive del mercato crocieristico in Europa erano in forte crescita e che negli anni futuri ci sarebbe stato un vero e proprio boom di questa tipologia di viaggio. Nel panorama crocieristico del tempo spiccava un’altra compagnia, la Festival Crociere, la quale però, dopo aver inaugurato l’ultima unità, a causa di problemi finanziari è costretta a dichiarare bancarotta nel 2004. Tutte le navi vengono fermate. A questo punto entra in scena Aponte, che acquista all’asta per 215 milioni di euro European Vision nell’aprile dello stesso anno, ribattezzandola MSC Armonia. A giugno arriva il grande giorno di MSC Opera, nuova ammiraglia, battezzata a Genova ed infine, nel luglio, entra in possesso per 220 milioni di euro anche di European Star, che entra in flotta con il nome di MSC Sinfonia.
To streng then the Company structure, in 2003 Aponte appointed Pierfrancesco Vago, husband of his daughter Alexa, as CEO. In the same year MSC took delivery of MSC Lirica, the first large ship built by Aponte and christened by Sophia Loren. On this occasion the owner said while he was in Naples that “We invest in cruises to create a company that gives a good performance and not to make another war.” His foresight was rewarded, because he managed to understand that the prospects of the cruise market in Europe were growing and that this kind of trips would have had a great request in the following years. In the early cruise panorama (around 2000) there was another successful Company, Festival Cruises; however, after the christening of its last ship in 2004, this company is forced to declare bankruptcy due to financial problems. All ships are declared out of production. In April 2004 Aponte bought at auction European Vision for 215 million euros, renaming it MSC Armonia. Two months later the new flagship MSC Opera was christened in Genoa and finally in July the Company bought European Star for 220 million euros, joining the fleet as MSC Sinfonia.
It was just the beginning of an investment program of 5 and a half billion euros conceived to build the cruise fleet, one of the most modern in the world. From that moment the climb was fast and successful, so much that Aponte asked the French yard for new ships, larger than the previous ones and with a new project: the Musica Class. It was the first vessel and would have been be followed by three more. Musica started its journey in 2006 and in the same year the ex-Monterey was abandoned. MSC Orchestra would have joined it in 2007, followed by MSC Poesia in 2008 and MSC Magnifica in 2010. Moreover, Rhapsody was sold in 2010. But Aponte did not stop and although he was pleased by his new ships sailing the Seven Seas, he was eager to create more, bigger ships.
This might explain a 133,000 tons prototype project, whose first ship would have had a very evocative name: MSC Fantasia, christened in 2008. The most special feature of this new ship is the presence of a concept called “the ship-within-a-ship “, that is the Yacht Club area reserved for those staying in selected suites. Afterwards the twin MSC Splendida came, which originally was to carry the name MSC Serenata. With these two new ships, at the time the largest ever commissioned by a European ship owner, Aponte completed his dream with great satisfaction and pride.
The company had grown a lot but Aponte still didn’t want to rest. In fact, he decided to order two additional units of the Musica Class: MSC Meraviglia and MSC Favolosa. But later he converted this order into a third Fantasia Class unit that would have been christened with the name of MSC Divina. This ship is dedicated to Sophia Loren, the godmother of all the fleet; moreover, it was given her the opportunity to design a cabin in the Yacht Club and its dominant colour is the bright red. Finally in March 2013 the MSC Preziosa was christened and it completed the Fantasia class, MSC Preziosa. At first it was ordered by GNMTC Libyan company, owned by the Gheddafi family, but after the death of Rais and the fall of his regime it was purchased by Aponte when its construction state was already advanced. In the same year MSC Melody, the last ship set up following a classical taste, was abandoned. Its renewal program was announced in 2003 and it was realized with a final cost of 6 billion euros. In 2003 too the position of CEO of MSC Cruises goes to Gianni Onorato, former general manager of Costa Cruises and Pierfrancesco Vago, Aponte’s son-in-law, becomes the Executive Chairman. In October of the same year Giorgio Napolitano, the President of the Italian Republic, awarded Aponte the “Merit for Labor” Order (Ordine “Al Merito del Lavoro”) for his remarkable achievements in international shipping over the last 40 years.
Nel 2014 un altro grande progetto prende forma, il rinnovamento delle navi appartenenti alla classe Lirica, che durerà per il suo completamento fino alla fine del 2015. Le unità verranno sottoposte ad un programma denominato “Rinascimento” che prevede l’allungamento di 24 metri, modifica che darà ad ognuna più spazi pubblici e cabine. MSC Armonia è stata l’ouverture del progetto in questione dal costo di 200 milioni di euro. Siamo alle ultime battute che ci conducono ad oggi, a quello che è la MSC attualmente. Ultimato il programma Rinascimento, Aponte a questo punto decide di ricominciare ad investire somme ingenti per ingrandire la sua flotta con navi sempre più tecnologiche ed imponenti. Così commissiona una nuova classe ai cantieri STX France di Saint-Nazaire, ormai partner di lunga data. Nome in codice: Vista. Al taglio della lamiera della prima unità viene svelato il nome Meraviglia per questo prototipo da 5.700 passeggeri e 167 mila tonnellate di stazza, che solcherà il mare per la prima volta nel giugno del 2017. Seguiranno poi una gemella, chiamata Bellissima, e ulteriori due unità di stazza maggiore denominate Meraviglia Plus. In contemporanea Aponte ha stretto un accorto con la Fincantieri per la costruzione di un secondo prototipo, la cui prima nave, MSC Seaside, sarà dedicata ai Caraibi. Il 22 giugno è avvenuto il taglio della prima lamiera e la consegna è prevista per novembre 2017. Seguiranno ulteriori due gemelle. Infine, per completare questo a dir poco imponente piano industriale, Aponte ordina ad STX France quattro unità di quella che sarà la classe di navi tra le più grandi del mondo con 200 mila tonnellate di stazza e alimentazione ibrida GNL-diesel, in consegna a partire dal 2022. Alla fine di questo piano MSC avrà raddoppiato la sua flotta.
In 2014 the renovation of the ships belonging to Lirica’s class began. The units would have been subject to a program called “Renaissance” which provided the extension of 24 meters, a change that would have given more public areas and cabins. MSC Armonia was the overture of the project in question and it costed 200 million euros.
And this is were we reach the present. Once the Renaissance Programme was completed, Aponte decided to start investing large sums of money to enlarge his fleet with even more technological and impressive ships. So he commissioned a new class at the STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, long-time partner. Codename: Vista. During the cutting sheet ceremony of the first unit, the name Meraviglia was unveiled for this prototype; it can carry 5,700 passengers, weighs 167 thousand tons and will sail the sea for the first time in June 2017.
There will then be a twin, named Bellissima, and a further two higher tonnage ships being part of Meraviglia Plus. Furthermore Aponte has announced that he’ll join Fincantieri for the construction of a second prototype, whose first ship “MSC Seaside” will be dedicated to the Caribbean. On 22 June 2016 took place the cutting of the first sheet and the delivery is scheduled for November 2017. Finally, to complete this impressive business plan, Aponte has made an order to STX France, asking for four units of what will be the one of the largest ship classes in the world with 200,000 gross tonnage and LNG-diesel hybrid power. The delivery is planned for 2022 and and by this time MSC will have doubled its fleet.