MSC Cruises Review — Ships, Destinations, Dining, and More

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Mediterranean Shipping Company has been in business since 1970. It started as a cargo shipping company and branched off into the world of passenger cruises in 1988 with its MSC Cruises division.

Today, MSC is the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line — the fourth-largest overall — and is a leader in Europe, South America, and southern Africa cruises.

Even though it might not be the most well-known among cruise ship industry leaders like Royal Caribbean or Carnival, it has big plans for expansion — expect up to a dozen new ships over the next decade.

Basic Information

Name: MSC Cruises

Parent Company: Mediterranean Shipping Company

Number of Ships: 17 (2 more coming by 2021)

Destinations: 150+

Loyalty Program: MSC Voyagers Club

Credit Card: None

Ships

MSC operates 17 ships with 2 more on the way. MSC Virtuosa will debut in November 2020 and MSC Seashore will debut in 2021.

  • MSC Armonia
  • MSC Bellissima
  • MSC Divina
  • MSC Fantasia
  • MSC Grandiosa
  • MSC Lirica
  • MSC Magnifica
  • MSC Meraviglia
  • MSC Musica
  • MSC Opera
  • MSC Orchestra
  • MSC Poesia
  • MSC Preziosa
  • MSC Seaside
  • MSC Seaview
  • MSC Sinfonia
  • MSC Splendida

MSC Orchestra
The MSC Orchestra can carry over 3,000 passengers. Image Credit: MSC Cruises

Departure Ports

MSC Cruises sails to 69 countries across 6 continents from 52 departure ports.

Departure Ports
North America and the Caribbean
 
Forte-De-France, MartiniqueMiami, FLNew York, NYPointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe
Tampa, Florida
Europe






Ancona, ItalyBarcelona, SpainBari, ItalyBrindisi, Italy
Cagliari, Sardinia, ItalyCannes, FranceCivitavecchia (Rome), ItalyCopenhagen, Denmark
Funchal, Madeira, PortugalGenoa, ItalyHamburg, GermanyIstanbul, Turkey
Kiel, GermanyLe Havre (Paris), FranceLisbon, PortugalLivorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy
Malaga, SpainMarseille, FranceMessina, Sicily, ItalyNaples, Italy
Palermo, Sicily, ItalyPalma de Mallorca, SpainPiraeus (Athens), GreeceRotterdam, Netherlands
Siracusa, ItalySouth Hampton, United KingdomTrieste, ItalyValencia, Spain
Valletta, MaltaVenice, ItalyWarnemunde, Germany
Middle EastAbu Dhabi, United Arab EmiratesDoha, QatarDubai, United Arab EmiratesHaifa, Israel
Asia and the PacificHong Kong, ChinaShanghai, ChinaSingapore, SingaporeYokohama, Japan
South America

Buenos Aires, ArgentinaItajai, BrazilMontevideo, UruguayRio de Janeiro, Brazil
Salvador, BrazilSantos (São Paulo), Brazil
AfricaCape Town, South AfricaDurban, South Africa

Private Ports/Islands

MSC’s private island, located in the Bahamas, is called Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. This private oasis has 8 beaches, a Bahamian shopping village, local cuisine, massage huts on the beach, and so much more.

MSC Cruises Ocean Cay
Ocean Cay is MSC Cruises’ private island in the Bahamas. Image Credit: MSC Cruises

Your day at Ocean Cay can include any of the following activities, some of which come with an additional fee:

  • Aqua Zumba
  • Beach picnics
  • Beach soccer and volleyball
  • Bocce ball
  • Ceclo luxury electric pedalo
  • Deep-sea fishing
  • Disc golf
  • Evening lighthouse show
  • Kayaking
  • Latin dance classes
  • Luna Libre Party
  • Ocean Cay Olympic Games
  • Scuba diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Stand up paddleboarding
  • Stingray adventure
  • Sunset Champagne cruise
  • Waverunners

There’s plenty to eat and drink at Ocean Cay, too. You can grab lunch at Seakers Foodcourt or one of the many food trucks located around the island.

These locations serve up traditional buffet food as well as Bahamian specialties. If you need a drink or a snack like ice cream, stop by Lighthouse Bar, Springer’s Bar, The Smiling Fish Bar, or one of the many beach bars.

Hot Tip: Curious about award travel on cruises? Check out our guide to booking cruises with points and miles.

Onboard Activities

There’s a lot to do onboard an MSC ship. In addition to cruise ship staples like pools, a casino, and Broadway-style shows, MSC offers plenty of other unique activities.

Here is some of what you’ll find to do on an MSC cruise (not all activities are available on every ship; extra charges may apply):

  • 4D cinema
  • Aquapark
  • Arts and crafts
  • Bowling
  • Carnival party
  • Dance classes
  • Dancing shoes dance contest
  • F1 simulator
  • Fitness classes
  • Flower Glory Party
  • Himalayan Bridge sky walk
  • Hollywood Stars
  • Karaoke
  • Kelly and Kloe Onboard
  • Kid’s Clubs for all ages (babies to teens)
  • King and Queen of the Sea
  • LEGO Experience On Board
  • Library
  • MSC Factor talent contest
  • MSC’s Little Italy
  • Officers and Gentlemen dance
  • Oktoberfest
  • Rock Star Tribute
  • Sports tournaments (tennis, soccer, etc.)
  • Stardust dance contest
  • Virtual World
  • Waterslides

MSC Aquapark
The Aquapark on MSC Meraviglia. Image Credit: MSC Cruises

Dress Code

Casual wear is acceptable onboard an MSC cruise during the day. On Gala Nights, formal wear is required in restaurants — this means suits and ties for men and cocktail dresses for women.

You’ll want to leave some room in your suitcase to bring outfits for your ship’s theme parties. Bring your 60s and 70s floral gear for the Flower Glory Party, white clothing for the White Party, and red, white, and green to celebrate MSC’s Little Italy.

Hot Tip: If you need some help deciding what to pack, use our handy printable cruise packing list.

Dining and Beverages

Like most other cruise lines, MSC offers both complimentary dining as well as specialty restaurants that come with additional charges.

Complimentary Dining

Complimentary dining onboard an MSC ship consists of main restaurants and an extensive buffet.

Specialty Dining

You’ll also find restaurants on MSC that come with an additional charge. However, you can save up to 40% if you book before your cruise.

  • Asian Fusion Restaurant
  • Butcher’s Cut
  • Chef Yamaguchi’s Asian Market
  • Cirque du Soliel at Sea
  • Galaxy Kaito
  • Hola Tapas Bar
  • In-room pizza delivery
  • La Piazzetta
  • L’Atelier Bistrot
  • Kaito Sushi Bar
  • Kaito Teppanyaki
  • Ocean Cay Seafood Restaurant
  • Oriental Plaza
  • Room service
  • Sea Pavillion Hot Pot
  • Shanghai
  • Surf & Turf
  • Venchi Gelateria

Bars and Beverages

Look for these bars and lounges on your next MSC cruise (not all locations available on every ship):

  • Alchemist Bar
  • Cigar Room
  • Coffee Bar
  • Martini Bar
  • Spa Bar
  • Wine & Beer Bar

If you’d prefer to purchase your beverages ahead of time, you can opt for one of MSC’s beverage packages.

These packages are available at all onboard bars, the self-service buffet, and included restaurants.

Premium Plus Package: $79 per person per day

This package is for adults 21 and older and includes all drinks by the glass. It’s valid onboard including the specialty restaurants and at Ocean Cay.

This package includes drinks from the minibar and room service as well. You’ll also get a 30% discount on bottles of wine and Champagne.

  • Cocktails, spirits, liquors, wine, and beer
  • Soda, juice, bottled water, energy drinks
  • Classic and premium hot beverages

Premium Package: $62 per person per day

This package is for adults 21 and older and includes drinks up to $12 each. It’s valid onboard including the specialty restaurants and at Ocean Cay.

  • Cocktails, spirits, liquors
  • Wines by the glass
  • Draft and bottled beer
  • Soda, juice, bottled water, energy drinks
  • Classic and premium hot drinks

Easy Package: $35 per person per day 

This package is for adults 21 and older and includes drinks up to $6 each. It’s valid onboard and at Ocean Cay.

  • One brand of draft beer and/or bottled beer
  • Selected spirits and cocktails, including non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Classic hot drinks (espresso, cappuccino, latte, hot tea, hot chocolate)

Non-Alcoholic Package for Adults: $29 per person per day

This package is for adults and children ages 12 and up.

  • Non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Soda, energy drinks, juices
  • Bottled and flavored water
  • Premium coffee drinks, hot chocolate, tea
  • Soft-serve ice cream

Non-Alcoholic Package for Children: $17 per person per day

This package is for children ages 3-11 and includes everything available in the Non-Alcoholic Package for Adults.

Drink packages must be purchased for the duration of your cruise. If 1 person buys a drink package, everyone else in that stateroom also needs to purchase a package.

If you purchase your package onboard, you’ll be charged a 15% service fee on top of the package price. To avoid this fee, purchase your beverage package ahead of time.

Bottom Line: The Premium Plus, Premium, and Easy beverage packages will transfer to Ocean Cay. Guests who purchase these packages will be able to use them on the island.

Accommodations

No matter what type of stateroom you choose on your MSC cruise, you’ll enjoy some standard amenities to make your voyage as comfortable as possible including a Dorelan mattress and pillows, widescreen TV, air conditioning, and a safe.

Here are some of the MSC stateroom highlights (not all stateroom types are available on every ship):

An Interior Studio is perfect for the solo traveler. Each small room has a single bed that can be converted into a sofa during the day.

If you’re traveling with a large group, check out the Family Stateroom options. This category of room consists of 2 or more adjoining staterooms and can sleep up to 10 people.

If you want a stateroom that doesn’t feel like a stateroom, try the Duplex Suite. This 2-level suite features a master bedroom on the second level along with an additional double bed on the first level.

There are 2 bathrooms, 2 walk-in closets, and a large balcony with a private whirlpool tub.

MSC Cruises Duplex Suite
The Duplex Suite is a 2-level stateroom that comes with 2 bathrooms and a private whirlpool bath on the balcony. Image Credit: MSC Cruises

A Two-Bedroom Grand Suite can accommodate up to 5 people. These rooms have 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms plus a large balcony.

For a luxurious experience, try a Suite with Private Whirlpool. These suites come with a queen-size bed and a large balcony with a private whirlpool bath.

For the ultimate in luxury, choose an MSC Yacht Club Royal Suite. These luxurious rooms have a bedroom with a king-size bed, separate living room, bathroom with tub and shower, refrigerator, coffee machine, fully stocked mini-bar, and a large balcony with a whirlpool tub.

Plus this room comes with all MSC Yacht Club benefits.

MSC Yacht Club Roayl Suite
The MSC Yacht Club Royal Suite comes with all the amenities including a separate living room and a balcony with a whirlpool tub. Image Credit: MSC Cruises

MSC Inclusive Experience

By choosing your stateroom on an MSC cruise, you’re also choosing your personalized MSC experience. Each experience comes with a set of perks and bonuses.

Bella Experience: Comes with Balcony, Ocean View, Outside with Partial View, Interior, and Interior Studio rooms

  • Your dining time will be assigned according to availability
  • Access to the buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Use of ZOE on select ships (voice-enabled virtual cruise assistant)
  • MSC for Me app

Fantastica Experience: Comes with Suite, Balcony, Ocean View, Interior, and Staterooms for Families

  • All Bella Experience benefits
  • Ideally located staterooms with better views
  • Assigned dining times, but with priority over Bella Experience guests
  • Free 24-hour room service

Aurea Experience: Comes with Suite, Duplex Suite, Grand Suite, and Suite with Whirlpool and Balcony

  • All Fantastica Experience benefits
  • Complimentary Easy Drink Package
  • My Choice Dining so you can select your dinner times
  • Spa package that includes 2 50-minute massages per stateroom
  • Access to private sun deck (adults only)
  • Priority embarkation
  • MSC for Me Wristband: a waterproof wristband you can use to make purchases, book services, and unlock your stateroom

MSC Yacht Club Experience: Comes with MSC Yacht Club rooms

  • Luxury suites located on the top decks
  • Access to Top Sail Lounge
  • Private sun deck with pool, whirlpool, solarium, and bar
  • Private restaurant with a choice of dining times
  • Priority check-in and check-out
  • Dedicated concierge and 24-hour a day butler service
  • Unlimited drinks in MSC Yacht Club areas
  • Selected complimentary beverages in all onboard restaurants and bars
  • Access to Thermal Suite
  • Premium internet package

Hot Tip: Kids ages 11 and under travel free on most MSC cruises.

MSC Voyagers Club

MSC Voyagers Club is a loyalty club that you can join if you’ve sailed with MSC in the past or if you have an MSC cruise booked.

There are 5 levels of membership that offer perks based on points earned. You’ll earn points each time you cruise, book an onboard service, and make onboard purchases.

Here are just some of the benefits and perks you can earn as an MSC Voyagers Club member (benefits are cumulative):

Membership LevelNumber of Points RequiredHighlights of Benefits
Welcome1 confirmed bookingE-newsletter, onboard infopoint, member area online
Classic1-2,1995% discount on cruises, printable personalized luggage tags for embarkation, onboard welcome cocktail
Silver2,200-4,299Up to 15% discount and $50 onboard credit on select departures, milestone reward, fresh fruit basket in your stateroom
Gold4,300-9,999Complimentary 1 hour thermal area session, priority disembarkation at ports with tenders, free photo
Diamond10,000+Priority boarding on embarkation day

MSC Voyagers Club membership is valid for 3 years. If it has been more than 3 years since your enrollment date or the day of disembarkation on your last cruise, your membership will expire and you’ll lose all Voyagers Club privileges.

Hot Tip: MSC offers a discount of up to 10% on select sailings to all current and retired U.S. or Canadian military personnel and their families as well as all current and retired government employees including teachers, police officers, and firefighters plus their families.

Martha Stewart Partnership

MSC Cruises has partnered with Martha Stewart to bring passengers special excursions and experiences. Whether you want to send a gift or try a new shore excursion, you can do with Martha Stewart style.

Plus, if you’re sailing on MSC during a holiday, you’ll get to experience a special Martha Stewart 3-course holiday meal. These are available during Easter, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.

Martha Stewart Celebration Gifts

Send a special gift to someone on your MSC cruise that represents Martha Stewart’s values — good food, good company, and commemorating achievements and adventures. These are available on Caribbean sailings leaving from Miami and Tampa.

  • Martha Stewart Delightful Surprise: $10
    • Includes a personalized letter from Martha Stewart plus a special dessert and recipe card
  • Martha Stewart Sweet Delight and Cheers: $30
    • Includes a personalized letter from Martha Stewart, a special dessert, recipe card, and a bottle of wine
  • Martha Stewart Sensational Celebration: $89
    • Includes a personalized letter from Martha Stewart, a special dessert, recipe card, a bottle of wine, a free photograph taken by an MSC photographer, a 5×7 picture frame, and a canvas beach bag
Martha Stewart Sensational Celebration on MSC Cruises
Martha Stewart Sensational Celebration package. Image Credit: MSC Cruises

Martha Stewart Excursions

On select cruises, you can experience a specialty excursion inspired by Martha Stewart. These activities celebrate each destination’s local flavors and traditions.

  • Tastes of Belize — Street Food, Artisanal Cheese & Jungle Delights
  • St. John Hike to Watermelon Cay & Snorkel Trip
  • Bacalar Lagoon Kayaking & Pineapple Farm
  • The Perfect Margarita Mixology Session
  • Swimming Horses of Cayman Experience
  • Historic Homes Walking Tour & Key Lime Pie
  • Jamaican Flavors Tasting Tour & Craft Market
  • Bush Medicine Gardens & Tea Tour
  • Bahamian Cooking & Cocktail Class
  • Konoko Falls & Murphy Hill Farm Tour
  • Flavors of St. Maarten Culinary Course
  • Exploring Roatan’s Fishing Villages
  • Savor San Juan’s Culinary Delights

Hot Tip: Not sure where to get the best deal on your cruise? Dive into our guide on the best websites to book cruises at the cheapest prices.

MSC for Me App

The MSC for Me mobile app is available on select MSC smart ships including MSC Bellisima, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Meraviglia, MSC Seaside, MSC Seaview, and MSC Splendida.

MSC for Me mobile app
The MSC for Me mobile app is designed to help streamline your onboard experience. Image Credit: MSC Cruises

This mobile app is designed to help your onboard experience be fantastic. With the app, you’ll be able to save time, keep track of your onboard activities, and stay connected with options including:

  • Mobile check-in
  • Interactive map of the ship
  • Displays of onboard events and activities
  • MSC for Me Wristband
  • MSC for Me Chat
  • Family and Friends Locator (available for an extra charge)
  • ZOE (virtual cruise assistant)

Hot Tip: Are you using the right credit card? Consult our guide to the best credit cards to book cruises to make sure you aren’t leaving any benefits on the table.

Final Thoughts

MSC Cruises might not be the most well-known brand in the industry, but it is still one of the biggest cruise lines, with plans to expand even more. Keep an eye out for plenty of new MSC ships over the next decade.

MSC will appeal to many different types of cruisers since it has lots of different types of activities onboard. If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll appreciate the pool, waterslides, and waterpark.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll enjoy the specialty restaurant options, and if you’re looking for luxury, you’ll adore the MSC Yacht Club Experience!

If you’re a frequent cruiser, you’ll love the MSC Voyager Club perks like cruise discounts and priority boarding.

Whether you’re looking for a laid back getaway to the Caribbean or an exotic voyage to South Africa, you’ll find it on MSC Cruises.


Frequently asked questions

Is MSC a luxury cruise line?

Yes, you can definitely get a luxury experience on an MSC cruise. If luxury is what you’re after, check out the Aurea Experience and MSC Yacht Club Experience. These levels of cruising come with Suites, Duplex Suites, Grand Suites, and Suites with Whirlpool and Balcony plus MSC Yacht Club Rooms. With these 2 levels of experience, you’ll enjoy luxury benefits like complimentary drinks, My Choice dining, spa packages, access to a private sun deck, a private restaurant, and more!

What is the best MSC cruise ship?

MSC Bellissima is often cited as the best ship in the MSC fleet. Debuting in 2019, it’s the newest MSC ship and, like its sister ship MSC Meraviglia, is one of the fleet’s biggest. It features an aquapark, waterslides, the “Himalayan Bridge” sky walk, 4D cinema, and more.

How much is the drink package on MSC Cruises?

MSC Cruises offers multiple drink packages that range in price from $17 per person per day for a kid’s drink package to $79 per person per day for a package that includes all drinks by the glass (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic).

What is included on MSC Cruises?

An MSC Cruise includes the main dining rooms and an extensive buffet. Entertainment, onboard features like pools and waterslides, and kids’ activities are also included. You’ll pay extra for specialty restaurants, alcoholic drinks, specialty non-alcoholic drinks, shore excursions, and some onboard activities.

What is the dress code on an MSC cruise?

Resort casual wear (like shorts and t-shirts) is acceptable on an MSC cruise except for Gala Nights. On these nights, formal wear is required in the restaurants — suits and ties for men and cocktail dresses for women.

Katie Seemann

About Katie Seemann

Katie is an Ohio native who caught the travel bug after spending a semester in college in Nottingham, England. In addition to exploring England, she visited Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands during that time and loved every minute of it (everything except the hostel in Scotland – that’s an experience she doesn’t intend on repeating!) In 2015, Katie discovered the world of points and miles, and since then she’s earned countless points and has an embarrassingly large number of credit cards in her wallet (which she needs a spreadsheet to keep track of!)

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