Who Owns MSC Cruises?

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Rear view of the MSC Magnifica on North Sea Canal from Amsterdam towards the Ijmuiden locks

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MSC Cruises has become one of the largest cruise lines in the world, with an impressive fleet of large and technologically advanced ships. While most mainstream cruise lines are owned by a larger cruise operator, MSC Cruises is the world’s largest privately owned cruise line.

Who Owns MSC Cruises?

Rear view of the MSC Magnifica on North Sea Canal from Amsterdam towards the Ijmuiden locksPin

MSC Cruises is owned by MSC Group, a global maritime company owned and managed by the Italian billionaire Gianluigi Aponte and his family. MSC Cruises is the world’s largest privately owned cruise line and the third-largest cruise line behind Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Group.

What Does MSC Stand For?

Close up of the MSC Cruises logo on the funnel of MSC Fantasia cruise ship in Flam NorwayPin

The “MSC” in MSC Cruises stands for “Mediterranean Shipping Company.” They are part of MSC Group, which operates one of the largest shipping companies in the world

Who Owns MSC Group?

Captain Gianluigi Aponte, the Chairman, Founder, and Owner of MSC GroupPin
(Photo Credit: MSC Group)

MSC Group is owned by the Italian billionaire Gianluigi Aponte and his family. Gianluigi is the founder, owner, and chairman of MSC group, while his wife Rafaela, son Diego, and daughter Alexa all have prominent roles in the business.

In 2014, Aponte retired from his role as CEO, staying on as chairman while his son, Diego, took over the role.

In December 2022, Gianluigi’s net worth is estimated at $14.5 billion by Forbes.

MSC Cruises History

MSC Seashore sailing in open water on route to naming ceremonyPin
Photo Credit: MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises was established in 1988 when MSC Group purchased their first leisure vessel, the ocean liner Monterey.

In 1989, MSC expanded its cruise line with the purchase of the cruise line, Lauro Line. The new company was renamed StarLauro Cruises and operated two passenger ships, Montenery and Achille Lauro.

Lauro Lines was founded in the 1960s by Aponte’s mentor, Achille Lauro. The cruise line was having financial difficulty following the sinking of MS Angelina Lauro in 1979. The ship caught fire at a pier in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and created ongoing financial challenges for the company.

In December 1994, Achille Lauro sank off the coast of Somalia while it was en route to South Africa. The struggling company found itself deeper in financial difficulty and was open to being purchased by MSC.

In 1995 the cruise line was renamed MSC Cruises. Following the acquisition by MSC Group, the cruise line purchased two ships in the same year, Cunard Princess, which became MSC Rhapsody, and MSC Symphony.

In 2002, MSC Cruises announced an ambitious €5.5 billion programs to produce the world’s most modern cruise fleet.

The program produced four Lirica class ships, four Musica class vessels, and four Fantasia class cruise ships. The cruise ships encompass what MSC Cruises defines as their “trademark blend of traditional elegance and innovative design.” 

MSC Seaside cruise ship prepares for departure from Miami to a weeklong Caribbean voyagePin

In 2008, the cruise line was the first to be awarded the coveted “6 Golden Pearls” recognition of their outstanding health and safety, environmental protection, and food safety. 

In 2014, MSC Cruises launched an ambitious €5.1 billion plan with an order for seven new cruise ships and the Renaissance Programme to enlarge four Lirica class ships providing more space, amenities, and activities for guests.

In 2016, MSC Cruises expanded upon its plan, raising the total investment to €9 billion and signing a letter of intent to develop four World-class ships. The new vessels are powered by liquified natural gas (LNG) technology, which is cleaner than traditional gas or diesel engines. Between 2017 and 2026, the MSC €9 billion plan adds eleven new cruise ships to its fleet.

The ambitious plan was again expanded in 2017 when MSC Cruises announced plans to add a fifth Meraviglia vessel and two additional Seaside EVO ships.

With new ships under construction, MSC welcomed their first guests to Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in the Bahamas. The cruise line’s private island is an ocean paradise for guests and a marine reserve developed through consultation with marine biologists, environmental engineers, and other experts.


  • 1675 – The first record of the Aponte family’s involvement in maritime transport, operating the ship felucca Giovannina. The boat operated routes between Naples and Castellamare and Calabria and Sicily.
  • 1970 – Gianluigi founded the Mediterranean Shipping Company, MSC, with the acquisition of a single ship, the cargo ship Patricia.
  • 1971 – MSC purchases a second, larger ship named after Aponte’s wife, Rafaela, followed by the carrier Ilse in 1973.
  • 1988 – MSC announced its entrance into the cruise market when it purchased the ocean liner Monterey.
  • 1989 – Purchase of Lauro Line. The newly formed company was renamed StarLauro Cruises and had two ships, Monterey and Achille Lauro.
  • 1995 – The cruise line was renamed MSC Cruises.
  • 2002 – MSC Cruises is established as a subsidiary of MSC Group.
  • 2003 – MSC Cruises announced a €5.5 billion program to produce the world’s most modern cruise fleet.
  • 2008 – MSC Cruises received the coveted “6 Golden Pearls” recognition for their outstanding health and safety, environmental protection, and food safety. They are the first cruise line to receive the award.
  • 2019 – MSC Cruises opens its private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.

MSC Group

A fully loaded MSC Container ship off the coast of RussiaPin

MSC Group is the parent company of MSC cruises. The company’s main division is cargo transportation.

The company was founded in 1970 with the purchase of MSC Group’s first cargo ship, Patricia. MSC purchased a second, larger ship in 1972 and named it after Aponte’s wife, Rafaela.

In 1978, MSC Group moved its headquarters from Naples, Italy, to Geneva, Switzerland.

MSC Group has two main divisions; cargo and passenger.


Loading and unloading an MSC Group container ship in belgiumPin

MSC Group is the second-largest shipping company in the world after Maersk. They operate over 730 cargo vessels and employ a staff of over 150,000 worldwide.

The company operates a global transportation and logistics network comprising over 260 routes to 155 countries.

The company estimates they deliver 23 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) annually.

The cargo division is also comprised of Terminal Investments Limited, which invests, develops, and manages container terminals, and MEDLOG, which “is an independent logistics operator and a specialist in multimodal transportation (road, rail, barge, and ocean services).”


MSC Group’s passenger division consists of three subsidiaries:

  • MSC Cruises – An international leisure cruise company
  • GNV – An Italian shipping company for cargo and passengers. They operate several international routes within the Mediterranean.
  • SNAV – A ferry service that operates routes within and between Italy and Croatia.





Article by

Marcello De Lio

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