MSC Cruises

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Review of MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises is a global cruise company based in Switzerland, with headquarters in Geneva and Naples. MSC is the largest privately-owned cruise company in the world, with offices in 45 countries and 15,500 employees worldwide. MSC Crociere S.p.A. (Italian) is part of the Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A. (MSC), which is the 2nd biggest container shipping operator in the world. MSC Cruises is the world's 4th largest cruise company, after Carnival Corp. & plc, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines with 5.2% share of all cruise passengers carried in 2015.

MSC Cruises logo

Originally founded by Achille Lauro as Lauro Lines, the company entered cruise business in the 1960s. Initially, MSC operated two ships, ms Achille Lauro and Angelina Lauro, both of which had fiery ends. After Angelina Lauro burnt in Saint Thomas in 1979,  Flotta Lauro (Lauro Lines), met with bad times, operating only Achille Lauro. In 1985, ms Achille Lauro was hijacked by Palestine Liberation Front's members, and the much-publicised event led to dropped passenger numbers. Mediterranean Shipping Company purchased Flotta Lauro in 1989, and renamed it StarLauro Cruises. Achille Lauro caught fire and sank in 1994. In 1995, the company changed its name to "MSC Cruises".

In 2014 MSC Cruises announced that its four Lirica class ships were scheduled for renovation under the line's "Renaissance Programme" (USD 273 million investment). Four ships (Armonia, Lirica, Opera, Sinfonia) were stretched / elongated by 25 m (80 ft).

MSC cruise ship stretching (Armonia, Lirica, Opera, Sinfonia)

All ship-reconstruction works were done during drydock refits done at Fincantieri shipyard Palermo Sicily (between 2014 August 31 and 2015 November 17).

MSC cruise ship stretching (Armonia, Lirica, Opera, Sinfonia)

In 2015, the company offered four new ships from STX France and Fincantieri Italy, with an option for three more. The first two vessels are due to be delivered in 2017 - MSC Meraviglia in May and MSC Seaside in November.

MSC Meraviglia-class cruise ship

On February 1, 2016 MSC announced it would build two new mega ships, able to carry up to 6,300 cruise passengers at full capacity. The two newbuilds, called “Meraviglia Plus” class, will have 200 additional cabins and be 16 meters longer compared to the Meraviglia class ships, with a total of 2,444 staterooms.

MSC Seaside-class cruise ship

Meraviglia Plus vessels will be due for delivery in November 2019 and April 2020. It's not confirmed where the two will be based. According to CEO Gianni Onorato, "despite their size, they can fit into any port around the world".

MSC also announced new features on the two ships, including the first at sea fine art museum, featuring original artworks. The additional space would allow for a bigger, 111-meter long indoor promenade, and a huge LED screen, now 95 meters by 6 meters. The extra space will shelter an extra two restaurants. The line has exclusive partnership with both Samsung, which will provide the technology, and Cirque du Soleil, which will perform a show onboard. 

Whether new ship or old, the company of MSC Cruises emphasizes an Italian-influenced ambience. Its ships, for the most part, traverse the Mediterranean during winter and summer months, and are geared to European cruisers. The line has made a commitment to not only travel elsewhere (Canada/New England, South America, the Caribbean, the Gulf, South Africa), but also to expand passenger base by including English-speaking vacationers. In fact, MSC Cruises is committed to expansion, and deployed one of its newest cruise ships, MSC Divina, to sail from Miami year-round, which began in November 2013. However, after years basing a ship, MSC Opera in the United Kingdom, the line pulled out completely in 2015 and concentrated on its core business of Mediterranean fly-cruise sailings. 

Because of the line's international passenger base, onboard announcements are generally read in Italian, Spanish, French, German and English. Mealtimes follow a more traditional cruise schedule with set dining times and seatmates. A handful of optional eateries include a buffet, sushi and an Italian restaurant. 

MSC Cruises ships offer standout evening entertainment, from classical concerts and jazz to contemporary dance music and Cirque du Soleil-esque aerobatic shows. MSC sailings are typically priced at value-oriented levels, but the ships offer an unprecedented range of amenities and services that cost extra, such as fees for port shuttles, a la carte menus, and more.

MSC World-Class cruise ships

On April 6, 2017, during Meraviglia ship's delivery ceremony at STX France shipyard (Saint-Nazaire), MSC signed a new ship construction MoU ("memorandum of understanding") with STX France for a new series of 4 vessels (World Class) at a total cost EUR 4.5 billion. The shiporder was signed on May 31, 2017.

MSC World-class cruise ship

  • World Class MSC ships are with max capacity 6850 passengers (2760 staterooms).
  • Building cost per ship EUR 1,125 billion.
  • Shipbuilder is STX France.
  • Gross tonnage is 200,000 GT.
  • Vessel's LOA length is 330 m (1083 ft).
  • Vessel's width is 47 m (154 ft).
  • Number of staterooms is 2700 (passenger capacity 5400).
  • The shipbuilding order includes 2 initial vessels, plus 2 optional.
  • Among these liners' key features are new generation LNG-powered marine engines, new waste water treatment plants, Y-shaped superstructure profile (better panoramic views, increased more balcony cabins), G bow hull (ertically positioned / 90-degree angle, improves vessel's stability and hydrodynamics / fuel efficiency), family-themed "villages", panoramic aft pool, glass-covered pool lounge.

MSC World-class cruise ship

The first MSC World cruise ships will be launched in the years 2022 and 2024. The two optional vessels will be launched in 2025 and 2026.

In January 2016, MSC entered into a partnership with Samsung for the full, latest technology equipment of all the company's new vessels. Among the provided by Samsung equipment are top-line flat HDTVs for passenger cabins), LED screens (in public areas), specialized medical equipment (for the onboard medical centers), digital signage boards, augmented reality mirrors, printing solutions.

MSC Cruises private islands (Sir Bani Yas, Ocean Cay)

In the end of 2015, MSC Cruises unveiled plans to develop an "unprecedented exclusive marine reserve island experience in the Bahamas". The USD 200 million project was launched in Nassau, where the Bahamas' Prime Minister and MSC's Executive Chairman signed a 100-year lease agreement, enabling MSC Cruises to occupy and develop the island - officially named Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.

MSC Cruises Ocean Cay Island port

Ocean Cay was a 2-year USD 200 million project . The island is sized 95 acres / 38 hectares (0,38 km2 / 0,15 ml2) and is the world's only private marine reserve. It has a 3470 m (11400 ft) long beach front across 6 beaches, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve is the biggest Caribbean private island development done by a cruise ship company. An interesting fact is that when the MSC ship is berthed in Ocean Cay, all its onboard facilities and services (including the casino) stay open and operational.

In June 2016, MSC Cruises announced it had created an exclusive "beach oasis" for MSC cruise ship tourists on roundtrips from Abu Dhabi and Dubai (starting winter 2016-2017). The 2,5 km (1,5 ml) stretch of land on Sir Bani Yas island features shaded cabanas, hundreds of palm trees and over 2,000 sunbeds across 36,000 m2 (387,500 ft2) of sand beaches. Other facilities and amenities available on the island include food and drinks bars, MSC Aurea Spa (wellness complex, massages), sports facilities (beach volleyball, tennis), family-kids playground area (with parents’ pergola), Bedouin tent (selling hand-made local arts and crafts), lounge space (live music, full-service bar), exclusive beaches (with VIP areas and cabanas).

Sir Bani Yas island

  • The MSC island development is on a smaller isle connected to the main island by wooden boardwalk allowing exclusive access to MSC passengers.
  • MSC worked closely with ecologists and the Abu Dhabi Port Authorities for over 2 years to develop the island and support the ongoing preservation work. The isle is one of the region's largest wildlife reserves due to decades of conservation works and ecological investments to maintain its biodiversity. The "Arabian Wildlife Park" on the main island is home to over 13,000 endangered and indigenous animals, as well as millions of plants and trees.
  • The first cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island departed on December 3, 2016 (visiting the island on December 5). Prices started from USD 720 per person (7-night itinerary on MSC Fantasia).
  • In July 2016, Costa Cruises announced that Sir Bani Yas Island will be added as 1-day stopover (port of call) during season 2016-2017 on Costa neoRiviera itineraries. In 2017-2018, neoRiviera was replaced in Dubai by Costa Mediterranea. Costa passengers have access to a private (Costa exclusive) beach with VIP areas with cabanas.
  • Among the island's shore excursion options are jeep safaris in the wildlife park, sea kayaking, diving and snorkelling tours.

MSC wedding cruise deals

Since 2015, MSC Cruises has a new cruise wedding program available on Caribbean itineraries.

  • The program offers onboard marriages (also ashore) in several Caribbean port destinations, including Nassau Bahamas, Bridgetown Barbados, Grand Cayman Island, Falmouth Jamaica, Cozumel Mexico, San Juan Puerto Rico, Philipsburg St Maarten, Charlotte Amalie St Thomas, and also Miami Florida USA (on the embarkation day only).
  • MSC partnered with the wedding-planning company "The Wedding Experience" and offers cruise wedding packages with prices starting from USD 1600 (onboard) and USD 2200 (ashore) weddings. MSC's basic wedding package includes a pre-cruise event manager, a ceremony coordinator, 1 bottle of Champagne, 1 cake for two, 1 bridal bouquet, 1-hour photo session.
  • Event planners work with the couples to handle all the details (weddings and vow renewals). Also provided are wedding consultants and ceremony coordinators.
  • Onboard / ashore receptions and ceremonies offer various options - video / photo packages, fresh flowers, themed music, food and drink packages, also specialty items (personalized stationaries for invitations) and ground transportation for ashore events.
  • Couples booking groups of 13 or more cabins receive a complimentary balcony stateroom. Couplse booking groups of 30 or more cabins receive a complimentary suite. Complimentary Yacht Club stateroom is offered for 50 or more booked cabins.
  • Onboard ceremonies can be attended by up to 150 non-cruising guests.
  • MSC Cruises' first ship to offer onboard weddings was MSC Divina.

MSC cruise booking and cancellation policy changes

In July 2017, MSC changed the cimpany's cruise booking policy. It now requires final payments to be made 30 days earlier - from 60-days to 90-days prior departure.

  • Cancellations made 89-61 days prior departure result in losing the non-refundable deposit.
  • Cancellations between 46-60 days prior departure result in paying 50% of the original price.
  • Cancellations between 16-45 days prior departure result in paying 75% of the original price.
  • Cancellations done 15 days of less prior departure result in paying the full cruise price.

MSC cruise ship virtual reality tours

Samsung and MSC Cruises developed a cutting-edge virtual reality tool for touring MSC ships. The new technology was announced during at Expo Milano 2015 (May 1 through October 31, 2015).

  • With this innovative technology, MSC made available to the company's top European sellers (travel agencies) a powerful tool for introducing the MSC travel experience to potential customers.
  • The technology is based on Samsung's "Gear VR" headsets (powered by Oculus) plus a custom-built software app. Potential MSC passengers can walk through any cruise ship in the fleet without setting foot on board. The tool allows "walking" through 6 key onboard areas (including staterooms, restaurants, pools, theatre / also watching a show). The 360-degree sensory experience even brings aromas in the air (when observing an onboard restaurant) - such as fresh-baked bread, fresh fruits, chocolate.
  • The virtual cruise ship tour technology uses software and hardware by AxedGroup. The virtual ship tour app runs on Samsung Galaxy Note phones.
  • Other experiences include tours of new (prototype) MSC ships *currently under construction).

MSC fitness cruise packages

Since 2017, MSC Cruises offers an upgraded fleetwide onboard wellness experience via partnership with TechnoGym. It is part of the company's cruise fare-inclusive offers that can be chosen upon booking.

  • The new program starts with an online questionnaire determining the customer's specific wellness goals, aspects of healthy lifestyle (exercises, healthy diet, weight loss).
  • The new wellness program is linked with the company's fitness-themed cruises. It also includes one-time personal trainer consultation. Personal training sessions are available onboard at extra cost.
  • Also included are themed shore excursions (jogging, hiking, cycling), fitness classes (hula hooping, barre, yoga, Pilates).
  • Resistance bands and workout mats are provided on the ship for in-cabin use.
  • TechnoGym workout gear and laundry service for the exercise clothing are provided on the ship.
  • Healthy food menu options are available in the ship's main dining rooms and buffet restaurants.
  • Deals are also inclusive of a medical evaluation with the ship's doctor (blood pressure, EKG, lipid panel).
  • The new "Wellness Experience" program is operated with a total of 5 fitness cruise packages available for booking. Pricing starts from USD 930 pp (7-night itinerary, Interior Stateroom).

Itinerary of MSC Cruises

In Europe, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, MSC ships attract a strong European crowd with U.K.- and Ireland-based travelers becoming increasingly well-represented. The Caribbean sailings of the line are geared more strongly to vacationers from North America.

With its new-builds, MSC Cruises attracts a large number of retirees during the winter, while its efforts to appeal to families during the summer and school holidays end with lots of children at those times. The more classic vessels of the line which offer longer, more exotic itineraries and lack state-of-the-art kids' facilities, are tailored to older cruisers.

In the end of 2015 MSC Cruises announced that MSC Seaside, which will sail from Port Miami, is open for booking. The cruise ship will sail year-round from Miami with 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. Passengers who sail to the Eastern Caribbean will visit Saint Thomas, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, while those who head to the Western Caribbean will explore the Bahamas, Cozumel, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. The first sailing will be the December 21, 2017 Christmas cruise.

Docking at a newly expanded and renovated dedicated berth and terminal at Port Miami, MSC Seaside joins the ultramodern MSC Divina in servicing North American market.

MSC Cruises is also examining the idea of offering more regular 2018 sailings from the United Kingdom. MSC chief executive, Gianni Onorato, announced it would make sense to return to regular UK sailings when the line adds more ships to the fleet.

MSC returned to the United Kingdom with a series of short cruises from Southampton UK, with MSC Splendida offering six departures. Onorato didn't specify on which cruise ship or which class would be based in UK waters, but previously stated he would prefer it to be one of the newer ships of the line.

These comments came as MSC Cruises held a coin ceremony for its Meraviglia in Saint Nazaire shipyard in France. The ship launches in 2017 and will be christened on June 1 in La Harve, before spending her inaugural season offering sailings from Marseille. MSC Meraviglia will be based in Hamburg for 2018 summer season. Thus, the vessel will become the largest cruise ship ever to be homeported there. Meraviglia will operate along with MSC Magnifica. In 2018 MSC Cruises will also return to the United Kingdom with MSC Magnifica sailing her first full season ex-UK program. The ship, launched in 2009, will make Southampton home for 8 months, from April until November.

  • In September 2016, MSC Cruises announced the future deployment of a 2nd ship to China. From May 2018, MSC Splendida was scheduled to serve the Chinese market following the scheduled for 2017 rdrydock refurbishment. The China-based (Shanghai) cruise itinerary program included destinations in Japan, South Korea and China.
  • MSC's first cruise from Dubai to Japan was a 28-night itinerary in 2018 on MSC Splendida (departing March 31, 2018). The cruise visited ports in UAE, Oman, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, China (including Hong Kong) and Japan.
  • In Asia, Splendida joined MSC Lirica (operating from China since May 2017) from homeport Tianjin and serving the north China market during winter months.

The new MSC Seaview heads to Santos, Brazil for winter 2018-2019 following her debut season in the Mediterranean. Prior to that, the ship will spends an inaugural season homeporting in Genoa, with week-long cruises with calls in Malta, Spain, France and Italy.

MSC Splendida will not re-position to China, and will sail back from Shanghai for 2018-2019 winter season in the Middle East, to sail from Dubai on week-long cruises.

MSC Meraviglia will sail in Northern Europe 2018, with Hamburg as a turn-around port during summer. The MSC Divina will also leave her year-round post in Miami to offer the 2018 summer season via seven-day cruises from Genoa, with alternative embarkation in Rome, Valencia and Marseille. The Seaside will stay in Miami for 2018, and the Divina will be back in the Caribbean for the 2018-2019 winter.

In November 2016, MSC Cruises announced its first-ever world cruise, departing on MSC Magnifica from Genoa on January 5, 2019, and sailing for 119 days, with calls at 49 ports in 32 different countries. The line has arranged extended stays in ports that no other cruise companies offer, including 4 full days in Polynesia, 3 full days in both San Francisco and Hawaii, and 2 full days in Los Angeles.

In February 2017, MSC officially announced that In 2019, a small fleet of 3 MSC ships will offer Caribbean roundtrips from Miami FloridaSeasideMeraviglia and Divina.

In March 2017 MSC Cruises revealed its North American expansion that will bring 3 ships to the United States by 2019. While MSC Divina now sails from Miami, MSC Seaside will start year-round sailing out of Miami from December 2017. Starting fall 2019, MSC Meraviglia, debuting in Europe in summer 2017, will join the two vessels sailing the winter season in Caribbean from Miami. Meraviglia and Seaside will sail year-round while MSC Divina will return to Mediterranean in 2020.

MSC Cruise to Nowhere (South Africa)

Asia cruises 2018

In late April 2017, MSC Cruises announced its plans to deploy one of the fleet's largest vessels (tba) to Japan - starting operations in May 2018. MSC will operate itineraries roundtrip from homeport Yokohama to Kanazawa and Kagoshima.

Free cruises 2017

In 2017, MSC Cruises started offering a super deal for the company's potential customers celebrating a birthday. The deal is a complimentary (free) cruise if your birthday is during selected itineraries.

The itineraries are in destinations in Europe (Mediterranean, Baltic) and Caribbean. Birthday passengers can extend their complimentary voyage with combined (B2B) itineraries with length 14 to 22 nights.

However, the cruise booking must have at least 1 paying passenger and max 1 birthday passenger. His/her birthday must fall on one of the itinerary days, excluding the arrival/departure days. The special offer is subject to selected availability. Bookings must be made prior to Match 10, 2017.

MSC Cuba cruises from Havana

In December 2015, MSC Cruises announced the company will further strengthen its presence in Cuba by homeporting a 2nd ship in Havana from Winter 2016-2017 season, due to rising demand. From November 2016, MSC Armonia joined MSC Opera for the entire season.

In January 2016 MSC became the 1st global cruise line to homeport in Havana, with MSC Opera sailing to Jamaica, Mexico and the Cayman Islands. MSC Armonia operates on 8-day (7-night) itineraries, visiting ports in Central America and the Caribbean: 

Cuban itineraries on MSC Opera are leaving roundtrip from Havana. The current list of passenger shipping lines offering cruises to Cuba includes:

  • Carnival Paradise leaving from Tampa Florida - cheapest prices (from USD 480 pp)
  • Royal Caribbean (ship Empress of the Seas, leaving from Miami Florida)
  • Holland America (ship Veendam) leaving from Fort Lauderdale since December 2017
  • Oceania Cruises (ships Marina and Regatta) starting in 2017, Cuba circumnavigation, stops in Cienfuegos and Havana, also part of some Panama Canal transition itineraries.
  • NCL (ship Norwegian Sky, 4-day itineraries with Havana overnights - starting May 2017.
  • Azamara Cruises (ship on Azamara Quest from Miami)
  • Thomson Cruises (ship Thomson Dream) 7-day, leaving roundtrip from Jamaica (Montego Bay) to Havana
  • Compagnie du Ponant (yacht ship Le Ponant, leaving from Miami Florida)
  • Pearl Seas Cruises (ship Pearl Mist, leaving from Fort Lauderdale Florida)
  • Lindblad Expeditions (chartered sailing ship MS Panorama II, leaving from Havana)
  • Celestyal Cruises (ship Celestyal Crystal, leaving from Havana and Montego Bay Jamaica)
  • Grand Circle Cruise Line (ship MV Clio / ex Tere Moana) one-way from Miami to Havana, or the reverse from Havana to Miami (embarkation/disembarkation in port Cienfuegos).
  • International Expeditions (leaving from Havana, charter flights out of Miami)
  • Victory Cruise Lines - MS  Victory I (former MS Saint Laurent) - fly-cruises from Miami to Havana (home-port Cienfuegos /departures)
  • Note: According to the current Cuban law, US citizens of Cuban origin (born in Cuba) are not allowed to visit the island country (including on cruise ships). Regardless of their US citizenship status, Cuban-born Americans were denied booking on cruise itineraries visiting ports in Cuba. However, the situation changed in April 2016, after Carnival Corporation negotiated with the Cuban government for allowing ships with Cuban-born passengers, as such US citizens are allowed to visit the country on USA-Cuba charter flights. The Carnival-fathom line started Miami to Cuba cruises in May 2016.
  • Alaska Airlines offers regular nonstop flights to Havana from Los Angeles (California USA). An 80-min ling JetBlue flight from Fort  Lauderdale (Florida) to Havana costs less than USD 100. Previously, air travel from USA to Cuba was thought charter flights only.

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