MSC Cruises fleet
Review of MSC Cruises
MSC Cruises (MSC Crociere) is a passenger shipping company headquartered in Genoa and Naples. MSC was established in 1960. Today, MSC Crociere is a subsidiary of MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) - world's 2nd largest containership company. MSC Crociere is the world's largest privately-owned cruise company. By annual passenger shipping volumes, MSC is ranked world's 4th largest cruise company (after Carnival Corporation, RCCL-Royal Caribbean and NCL-Norwegian) with over 5% global market share.
Officially launched in 2003, in July 2019, MSC Crociere welcomed its 20-millionth passenger on the Miami-homeported MSC Seaside. MSC is currently world's fastest growing cruise company with its USD 20,5 billion investment plan (2017-2027) for building 17 new liners thus bringing its fleet to 29 vessels.
Originally founded by Achille Lauro as "Lauro Lines", the company entered cruise business in the 1960s. Initially, MSC operated two ships (Achille Lauro and Angelina Lauro) both of which had fiery ends. After Angelina Lauro burnt in St Thomas in 1979, Flotta Lauro (Lauro Lines), met with bad times, operating only Achille Lauro.
In 1985, Achille Lauro was hijacked by Palestinian Liberation Front members, and the accident resulted in decreased passenger numbers. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) 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". Fleet's oldest liner - the 1982-built MSC Melody - was sold in November 2013 and scrapped in September 2018 (as MS Qing).
In 2014, MSC announced that its four Lirica-class liners are scheduled for refits and extensive drydock refurbishments under company's "Renaissance Programme" (budgeted USD 273 million). By this project, all four vessels (Armonia, Lirica, Opera, Sinfonia) were stretched/elongated by 25 m (80 ft).
Ship-reconstruction works were done at Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo Sicily, between 2014 (August 31) and 2015 (November 17).
Most of the MSC cruise fleet operates in Europe (Mediterranean and Baltic). Company's other strong markets are USA (Caribbean), Canada New England, East Asia, South America, South Africa. Because of the international passenger base, all shipboard announcements are generally read in Italian, Spanish, French, German and English. Onboard mealtimes are fixed, with assigned seatmates. Optional dining includes Lido buffet restaurant, sushi, and Italian eateries.
MSC liners offer standout evening show entertainment - from classical concerts and jazz to contemporary dance music and circus-type acrobatics. Voyages are typically priced at value-oriented levels, but the liners offer an unprecedented range of modern vacation travel amenities and services that cost extra, such as fees for port shuttle buses, a la carte restaurant menus, etc.
Since September 2018, MSC Cruises has an exclusive partnership with "Mohegan Sun" - Uncasville (Connecticut USA)-based casino/gambling complex operated by Mohegan Tribe and located on reservation land along Thames River. By this deal are matched MSC's loyalty program (Voyager's Club) with Mohegan Sun's Momentum program. Momentum members receive exclusive cruise perks (including booking discounts, priority embarkation-disembarkation, onboard amenities). MSC's shipboard casino program offers customers the chance to play on over 1300 different slot machines fleetwide, plus various table games. Onboard casino rewards also include specialty dining, spa treatments, booking discounts. Mohegan Sun loyalty program members receive the corresponding MSC status based on their current casino card levels.
In mid-October 2018, MSC announced a plan to eliminate single-use plastics fleetwide by the end of March 2019. The list of such items includes bags, cups, cutlery, toothpicks, aprons, stir pins, drink mixers, coffee lids. By the end of 2018, they will be replaced with 100% compostable and biodegradable substitutes made of renewable resources (corn-based polylactic acid, paper, bamboo, other organic materials. In addition, shipboard drinks are no longer served with straws.
In late-November 2018, MSC signed an exclusive partnership with Chelsea Football Club to become its official global cruise partner (since January 2019). The deal includes LED advertising (at Stamford Bridge (football stadium in Fulham). Chelsea FC representatives will also attend MSC Bellissima's naming ceremony (March 2019). On the new ship will be also displayed Chelsea FC memorabilia.
In May 2019, MSC became industry's first mainstream cruise company with a permanent office in Canada (Mississauga, Ontario). MSC Cruises Canada's new office is served by 15 employees (full-time staff) led by Ian Patterson (Country Manager). With the Canadian office, MSC also launched two new websites - MSCCruises.ca (for consumers) and MSCbook.com/ca (for travel agents). Both websites debuted in English and were later upgraded with French language versions. MSC Cruises Canada has a bilingual call center and provides bilingual materials (brochures, flyers) for potential clients and travel agencies.
In early-December 2019, MSC signed with Japanet a 5-year sponsorship deal for V-Varen Nagasaki - Japanese professional football club owned by Japanet (TV shopping channel). As of 2020, the company also partners with the professional football clubs Chelsea FC (London England), Paris Saint-Germain FC (Paris France) and SSC Napoli (Naples Italy).
In 2015, the company ordered 4 new ships from STX France and Fincantieri Italy, with an option for 3 more. The first two vessels were delivered in 2017 - MSC Meraviglia (May) and MSC Seaside (November).
On February 1, 2016, MSC announced it would build two new-class mega-liners, with max capacity 6300 passengers. The two newbuilds (from Meraviglia Plus-class) have 200 additional cabins and are 16 m (50 ft) longer compared to Meraviglia-class (2444 staterooms).
First Meraviglia Plus vessel was scheduled for delivery in November 2019 (Grandiosa) and April 2020 (Virtuosa). MSC also announced new features on Meraviglia-Plus ships, including first at sea fine art museum with original artworks. The additional space allows bigger (111 m / 36 ft long) indoor promenade and a larger LED screen (95x6 m / 280x20 ft). The extra space also allows two additional restaurants. The line has an exclusive partnership with both Samsung (providing the technology) and Cirque du Soleil (live show programming shipboard).
During MSC Seaside delivery ceremony (November 29, 2017), MSC announced the order of 2 more "Seaside EVO" class ships from Fincantieri (contract value EUR 1,8 billion). The new ships are bigger (16 m longer, 17,330 GT tons heavier, capacity 467 more passengers) in comparison to sisterships Seaview and Seaside. Newbuilds' deliveries were scheduled for 2021 May (MSC Seashore) and 2023 February (TBN).
- LOA length 339 m
- Width 41 m
- Height 74 m
- GT 169,400 tons
- Capacity 5632 passengers, 1648 crew
- Cabins 2270
In early August 2018, MSC signed an agreement for EUR 1,5 billion (USD 1,74 billion) for financing both Seaside EVO liners. The financing was via a partnership with a syndicate of lender banks (Unicredit, BNP Paribas, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti). Fully backing the credit line was the Italian export credit agency SACE SIMEST. With the addition of Seaside EVO, MSC had an unprecedented total investment of EUR 10,5 billion into 12 new vessels with scheduled deliveries by 2026.
On November 30, 2017 (during Seaside's launch) the company Marlink (world's largest independent satellite Internet provider) provided over 0,5 gigabit per second throughput on its Sealink VSAT network. Seaside's record-breaking Internet speed was enabled on Intelsat's new EpicNG satellites. Marlink is MSC fleet's provider of satellite Internet via optimized "cloud of bandwidth". As of 2017, Marlink had as part of its Sealink network 25 satellites and 32 overlapping beams.
On June 14, 2018, MSC signed with STX France shipbuilding order for 5th Meraviglia-Class ship (delivery in 2023, dual-fuel LNG -powered engines). With this order, MSC had 13 newbuilds under construction or on order (2017-2026), of which 5 LNG-powered. The announcement was made at St-Nazaire yard. The ceremony was attended by Bruno Le Maire French Minister of Economy and Finance) and Pierfrancesco Vago (MSC's Executive Chairman). The event celebrated 3 major milestones - steel-cutting of the 4th Meraviglia-class vessel (Virtuosa), Coin ceremony of Grandiosa and float-out of Bellissima. For the first time in shipyard's history, 3 vessels of a single shipowner were simultaneously under construction.
On October 18, 2018, MSC signed with Fincantieri a MoA (memorandum of agreement) for building 4 new (ultra-luxury class) ships. Contract's total value was over EUR 2 billion. Compared to the company's current fleet, these vessels will be smaller (GT 64,000 tons, 500 staterooms). The first boat enters service in 2023, and the remaining 3 will be launched one per year (2024-2025-2026). The signing ceremony was attended by Pierfrancesco Vago (MSC's Executive Chairman) and Giuseppe Bono (Fincantieri's CEO).
(NEW) MSC "luxury fleet" - separate cruise brand?
In January 2018 strong rumors started to circulate about MSC considering the establishment of a new (all-inclusive luxury) cruise brand. There is also the possibility (instead of creating new brand) MSC to just create a parallel fleet.
Whatever the case, the new fleet will consist of the 4 smaller-sized vessels (with max passenger capacity around 500 (each). The newbuilds would be built by Fincantieri Group, and initially would operate on Mediterranean itineraries.
In October 2017, MSC Cruises installed on Meraviglia a modern "Man Overboard Detection System". The company also announced its plans to install such systems fleetwide.
This is an intelligent video capturing, image processing and analysis system that was tested and tuned on the cruise ship for over 25,000 hours, resulting in confirmed accuracy level of 97%. The real-time video data (provided by the ship's HD CCTVs) is monitored and analyzed in a central security center by 2 independent image processing systems, which significantly lowers false alerts.
When the alarm activates (in a man overboard case), light and acoustic signals notify the ship's security officer who can immediately review the recorded video and notify the Navigation Bridge crew to start a rescue operation.
MSC World-Class liners
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 ship's order was signed on May 31, 2017.
World Class MSC ships are with a max capacity of 6761 passengers. The number of staterooms is 2632 (passenger capacity 5264 lower berths). Building cost (per ship) is EUR 1,125 billion. The shipbuilder is STX France. Each vessel has GT tonnage (volume) 205,700 tons, LOA length 333 m (1094 ft), beam/width 47 m (154 ft) and height 68 m (223 ft). The shipbuilding order includes 2 initial vessels, plus 2 optional.
Among these liners' key features are latest generation LNG-powered marine engines, new wastewater treatment plants, ultra-modern marine architecture with an Y-shaped superstructure (better panoramic views, significantly increased number of balcony staterooms), G-bow hull (vertically positioned / at 90-degree angle, improving the vessel's stability and hydrodynamics / fuel efficiency), family-themed "villages", panoramic aft pool, glass-covered pool deck.
The first MSC World cruise ships will be launched in the years 2022 (MSC Europa) and 2024 (TBN). The two optional vessels will be launched in 2025 and 2026.
In January 2016, MSC signed a partnership with Samsung for latest technology equipment upgrade fleetwide. Among the provided by Samsung equipment are top-line flat HDTVs (for passenger cabins), LED screens and digital signage boards (in public areas), specialized medical equipment (for onboard hospitals), augmented reality mirrors, printing solutions.
In April 2018, the company introduced its new "Family Explorer Club" excursions program with expected over 250,000 children on cruises in 2018. The new tour program is designed to involve kids and their parents on custom-made shore excursions. The first boat offering the new program was Divina.
- The new interactive land tour experiences are themed on the destination's history and each tour features a local historical character symbolic to that destination/city. Teams are equipped with digital explorer maps, detailed instructions for the mission, and kids receive stickers for every accomplished task.
- On these family-only tours, kids are booked half-price. Excursions usually start later in the morning and have a max duration of 4 hours.
MSC private islands (Sir Bani Yas, Ocean Cay)
In December 2015, MSC 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.
Ocean Cay was a 2-year long, USD 200 million project. The island is sized 95 acres / 38 hectares (0,38 km2 / 0,15 mi2) 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 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. Ocean Cay Island is surrounded by 64 mi2 (166 km2) of protected waters with coral reefs and ~90 different fish species.
In June 2016, MSC officially announced the exclusive "beach oasis" for MSC cruiseship tourists on roundtrips from UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) starting winter 2016-2017. The 2,5 km (1,5 mi) stretch of land on Sir Bani Yas Island features shaded cabanas, hundreds of palm trees and 2000+ sunbeds across 36,000 m2 (387,500 ft2) of sand beaches. Other facilities and amenities available on the island include food and drink bars, MSC Aurea Spa (wellness complex, massages), sports facilities (beach volleyball, tennis), family-kids playground area (with pergola / outdoor garden for parrents), Bedouin tent (selling hand-made local arts and crafts), lounge space (live music, full-service bar), exclusive beaches (with VIP areas and cabanas).
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 a 1-day stopover (port of call) during season 2016-2017 on Costa neoRiviera (now AIDAmira). 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 snorkeling tours.
MSC Cruises Asia
In mid-January 2018, MSC announced a new partnership with China's largest online payment platform "Alipay". The deal offers mobile payments fleetwide - on all MSC vessels deployed in Asia. It allows customers to pay for onboard purchases. In November 2017, the Alipay option was introduced on MSC Lirica. Next ship with Alipay technology was MSC Splendida - homeported in Shanghai China since May 2018.
Since May 2017, all Costa Asia-managed cruise vessels (of all Carnival Corporation brands) allow use Alipay payment services onboard. The partnership between Carnival Corporation and Ant Financial Services Group (a subsidiary of Alibaba, China's biggest online trading company) enables Chinese cruise passengers on all Carnival Corp ships in Asia to pay for onboard services and products using their Alipay (mobile payment platform) accounts. Among these onboard services and products are shopping, tours/excursions, food, and drinks. These expenditures are added to the passenger's cabin folio, then cleared via his/her Alipay account on a nightly basis.
(NEW) MSC kids programming
In November 2019, on Grandiosa (fleet's flagship) MSC introduces a new kids' entertainment program featuring hundreds of hours (per week) of themed activities. For children and teens is allocated up to 700 m2 (7535 ft2) of shipboard space with separate rooms for different age groups. The activities include virtual gaming (consoles and arcade machines), large aqua parks with slides, treasure hunts, trivia games, themed parties, supervised playgrounds (indoor and outdoor).
Starting with Grandiosa, MSC now offers 3 new activities for children (MSC Dance Crew, The Drone Academy, Spy Mission) plus a new web series targeting teenagers.
- "MSC Dance Crew" is developed via partnership with FremantleMedia - the company behind the TV show franchises "The X Factor", "Idols" and "Got Talent". The new music competition experience is based on teams of 12-17-year-old children battling to win the title "dance crew of the year".
- "The Drone Academy" is via partnership with The Department (London UK-based event agency). The high-tech drone racing activities take place in ship's Sportsplex and happen at night due to flicker effects and the glowing drones. Teens (battling in teams) are previously trained on drone piloting. The race is at the 390 m2 (4200 ft2) sized arena and includes navigating 15 obstacles in the fastest time possible.
- "Spy Mission" is MSC's first activity where kids play a central role. They are led through different scenes (throughout the ship) to unravel storylines, follow clues and solve the mystery in order to win prizes.
- "Cabin 12006" is MSC's new teen-targeting web series tha follows "Kelly and Kloe Onboard" - run for 3 years (2016-2019) with 5+ million views online. Filming the "Cabin 12006" episodes is currently underway on Bellissima (inaugurated in March 2019) and due to launch in early-2020.
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. Couples 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 company'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 made 15 days or less prior departure result in paying the full cruise price.
Since April 2, 2019, tips (gratuities) are included into MSC cruise fares for all UK and Ireland passengers.
On February 1, 2019, MSC officially revealed the in-cabin digital assistant ZOE. The technology ("cruise industry first") was developed by Harman International (US-based company, fully-owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics). Harman International has developed digital audio solutions for major corporations (Including Google, Microsoft, Amazon).
- ZOE is an artificial intelligence device (voice-enabled, with advanced voice recognition software) available in all passenger staterooms.
- ZOE speaks 7 languages, answers cruise-related questions, provides info on shipboard services-activities-facilities, makes reservations and bookings.
- The digital device features far-field microphones, top-quality speaker, quad-core processor (for fast response times), direct phone connection (through Bluetooth). The system can also upgrade its own database to answer previously unanswerable questions.
- Passenger data (including itinerary/tour and shipboard preferences) is stored in Cloud Storage system and used on the next scheduled voyage.
- The device (sized ~15 cm) can be activated whenever passengers choose. A waiver must be signed to agree for their personal data to be stored.
Starting with Bellissima (2019), ZOE will be available on all newbuild MSC liners - including Grandiosa (2019) and Virtuosa (2020) - and introduced fleetwide over 2019-2024.
"MSC for Me" - fleetwide Digital Innovation Program 2017-2018
Each of the MSC cruise ships is fitted with thousands of connectivity points, digital access points, iBeacons (Bluetooth) and hundreds of interactive digital screens throughout the ship. In all staterooms are implemented RFID (radio-frequency identification) and NFC (near-field communication) access technologies.
The new program is implemented fleetwide but was first introduced on MSC Meraviglia. The ship, launched in June 2017, was fitted with a total of 114 Interactive screens, 244 info screens, 31 virtual screens, 81 video wall monitors, 3050 iBeacons, 700 WAPs (wireless access points), 1200 CCTV cameras.
MSC digitalization program's main features are:
- The apps implement facial recognition technology and interactive/smart bracelets by Samsung.
- Digital Concierge app - passengers can reserve/book onboard services, restaurants and shore excursions in real time. The app is real-time and 24-hour, connecting MSC customers to the company's experienced staff online.
- Capture - virtual reality tool to preview the cruise itinerary, create personal photo galleries, online sharing.
- Organizer - a cruise planning tool used at mobile devices. It provides detailed information and also allows pre-booking (tours, theatre seats, dinner table, etc) before ship embarkation (pre-cruise booking) and while onboard (realtime cruise planner).
- Navigation - Interactive map (way finder) provides advice (scheduled events, opening hours, etc) and directions while on the ship. The app also allows real-time kids monitoring (via bracelets).
- TailorMade - digital advisor for personal recommendations based on the passenger's preferences (interactive gaming, gambling, culinary, recreational, entertainment, etc).
- Passengers can always opt out of all these connected ("Internet of things" / IoT) services offered.
- All passenger staterooms are fitted with door locks with built-in keypads (Samsung SHS-1321 NFC Ring).
MSC fitness cruise packages
Since 2017, MSC Cruises offers an upgraded fleetwide onboard wellness experience via a 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 a 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 Lido 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).
FREE Birthday cruise
In 2017, MSC started offering a new "free cruise deal" for customers celebrating their birthday. in case your birthday falls during select cruises, it is complimentary.
- MSC's free cruise offers are on itineraries in Europe (Mediterranean, Baltic), Asia (Arabian Peninsula /Dubai), Caribbean (West Indies, Cuba). Longer itineraries are available through World Voyages.
- Booked passengers can extend their free birthday cruise and combine itineraries into B2Bs (back to back cruises) from 14 to 22 nights.
- Bookings must have at least one paying passenger and only one free birthday passenger. The birthday of the passenger must fall on one of the itinerary days, but excluding the arrival and departure days.
- Such offers are usually promotions, subject to selected availability and valid for lower cabin categories only (usually excluding Suites).
MSC's "Dolphins Fan Cruise"
MSC Seaside ship's itinerary March 17-24, 2018 (7-day Caribbean and Antilles roundtrip from Miami to Nassau Bahamas, St Thomas USVI, St Johns Antigua) was officially themed "Dolphins Fan Cruise". This special voyage was the result of the 3-year partnership between MSC and the NFL team. The sports-themed voyage will be hosted annually over the next 3 years (2017-2020). The 2018 voyage's prices started at USD 700 per person (balcony cabin rates based on double occupancy).
During these sports cruises, passengers have the opportunities to interact in person with team alumni. The list of pre-scheduled onboard activities includes:
- Meet team's legends Joe Rose, Kim Bokamper, Nat Moore, Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison, Terry Kirby.
- Take autographs from the alumni, and get a photo with the team's cheerleaders.
- Cheer alongside team's cheerleaders and hype up the crowd with the mascot TD (The Dolphin).
- Enjoy special performances by cheer squad and the mascot.
- Get to know former players during Q&A sessions.
On April 28, 2018, the ship hosted the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders for the team's annual calendar photo shoot, with special onboard show programming.
- Via company's "Save & Sail" summer promotion, potential MSC cruise customers had the chance to book a balcony stateroom on the "Cheerleaders voyage" starting at USD 650 pp. The off-promo prices started from USD 1098 pp (Inside Cabin rates with double occupancy).
- Cheerleaders cruise itinerary (April 28 - May 5) was a 7-day roundtrip from Miami to St Maarten Island, Puerto Rico and Bahamas (Nassau).
MSC virtual reality ship 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 brand 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).
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.
MSC Seaside operates year-round from Miami on 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. The Eastern Caribbean itinerary visits St Thomas, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. The Western Caribbean itinerary visits the Bahamas, Cozumel Mexico, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands. The first Caribbean voyage was December 21, 2017 "Christmas Cruise".
Docking at a newly expanded and renovated dedicated berth and terminal at PortMiami, MSC Seaside joins there the fleet mate MSC Divina in servicing the North American market.
Cruises from China
From May 2018, MSC Splendida serves the Chinese market following its 2017 drydock refurbishment. The China-based (Shanghai) itinerary program included destinations in Japan, South Korea, and China. In Asia, Splendida joined MSC Lirica (operating from China since May 2017) from homeport Tianjin and serving the north China market during winter months.
MSC World Cruises
MSC's first-ever world cruise (on Magnifica) departed from Genoa on January 5, 2019. The 119-days itinerary included a total of 49 ports in 32 countries, with extended port stays and 4 full days in Polynesia, 3 full days in both San Francisco and Hawaii, and 2 full days in Los Angeles.
Departing in January 2020, the itinerary has a total of 40 ports of call in 23 countries on 5 continents. The 3-month long voyage can be booked as roundtrip itinerary from either Rome (Civitavecchia), Genoa, Marseille or Barcelona. It also features a Transatlantic crossing and a Suez Canal transit. Among the visited destinations are South America (Argentina, Chile, Easter Island), Australia, Pacific Islands, Asia (Malaysia, India, Oman, Jordan).
MSC 2020-2021 voyages
MSC 2020 winter itineraries feature a private island destination and new ports.
In the Mediterranean, the new Meraviglia Plus class liner Grandiosa enters service in November 2019 to operate on 7-day Western Mediterranean itineraries (winter 2020). Sistership Virtuosa enters service in April 2020. Virtuosa's itinerary program is based on 4 homeports (Barcelona, Genoa, Civitavecchia-Rome, Marseille) and 7-day Western Mediterranean cruises. The 6-port roundtrips also visit Sicily (Palermo) and Malta (Valletta).
MSC Sinfonia also operates in the Mediterranean, but with longer, 11-, 12- and 14-night voyages. A new 14-day "Holy Land" itinerary visits Haifa Israel. Passengers spend 2 full days in Haifa (port to Tel Aviv) discovering the ancient cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Other call ports include Rome, Messina Sicily, Barcelona, Genoa, Marseille, Greece (Rhodes Island, Limassol Cyprus, Heraklion Crete). Passengers can also book a new 12-night Mediterranean itinerary from homeport Genoa (to Tangier, Cartagena, Funchal (Madeira Island) ending in Rome.
Before the repositioning crossing to Miami, MSC Meraviglia operates on 12-night itineraries leaving out of New York. Two 10-night roundtrips from NYC are offered, before heading to Canadian ports. MSC Meraviglia finishes a 17-night Transatlantic cruise from Kiel (with call ports in Denmark, UK, Ireland, Iceland, Canada) ending in NYC.
MSC Cruises Caribbean fleet for 2020 winter season consists of 6 ships.
In the Caribbean, Meraviglia operates 2 different Western Caribbean itineraries from PortMiami. MSC Seaside operates on 7-night roundtrips from Miami. Seaside, Meraviglia, Armonia, and Divina all call on the private island Ocean Cay. The specially built pier allows passengers ship-port-ship access at all times.
MSC Preziosa cruises in the Caribbean, leaving roundtrip from homeport Fort-de-France (Martinique) and Pointe-a-Pitre (Guadeloupe). The pair of 7-night, 7-port itineraries can be combined into a 14-night back-to-back cruise, visiting the Tortola, St. Maarten, St Kitts, Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, St Vincent.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the UAE homeports of MSC Bellissima. The ship also cruises in the Mediterranean before the relocation to the Middle East for winter 2020. Two different 7-night Persian Gulf itineraries are offered to Sir Bani Yas Island-Khasab-Muscat and to Bahrain-Qatar. New, extended 2-week cruises are offered in the Gulf on flagship MSC Bellissima, with Doha as a new embarkation port. Due to a new partnership with Qatar Airways, passengers are able to fly from London UK, Paris, Rome, Vienna, or Milan to Doha as part of a Fly & Cruise package with the 5-star-rated flag-carrying airline. On arrival in Doha, travellers have all day to explore the city prior to a sunset departure. During the exclusive 14-night voyages, guests are able to explore a variety of destinations, with a total of 9 ports of call, including Dubai (2 overnight stays), Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Muscat, Khasab, Bahrain. MSC will deploy two ships in the Gulf through March 2020. MSC Lirica sails on 11-night itineraries plus 14-night roundtrips that also visit India. Bellissima also offers 7-night Gulf voyages from either Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Armonia's new itinerary program is based on Caribbean roundtrips from homeport Tampa (Florida USA). Starting November 11, 2020, out of Tampa the liner visits ports in Yucatan Mexico and the Bahamas the whole year-round. Ship's full winter season (November 2020 – April 2021) offers 4- and 5-night roundtrips. Follows a full summer season (May-November 2021) of 7-day cruises.
Armonia's call ports on shorter (4- and 5-night) voyages include Mexico (Costa Maya, Cozumel, Progreso), Florida (Key West) and Bahamas (Ocean Cay / MSC's private island). By booking B2Bs (back-to-back cruises), MSC cruisers can extend the length of their vacations with 9- or 10-night options. Pricing varies from USD 240 pp (4-night Tampa to Key West and Ocean Cay) to USD 290 (5-night Tampa to Key West and Progreso) to USD 300 pp (5-night Tampa to Cozumel and Costa Maya).
MSC Cruises 2020 summer season is based on 11 ships, including Grandiosa, Fantasia, Seaview and Divina. The liners visit Barcelona (on Saturdays), followed by Cannes and Civitavecchia-Rome. Divina goes to the Balearic Islands, with calls in Ibiza and late-night stay in Palma de Mallorca and full day in Naples. Fantasia visits Sicily, Sardinia and Valencia. In the Eastern Mediterranean are deployed 5 MSC ships (Opera, Orchestra, Magnifica, Musica and Sinfonia) for Greek Islands itineraries (with Adriatic Sea) and departures from Venice. Poesia and Splendida offer 12- or 9-night roundtrips to Portugal, Morocco, Madeira and Canary Islands.
4 MSC ships are deployed in Northern Europe for summer 2020, with longer cruises (up to 14 nights on Preziosa leaving from Hamburg to Norway and Iceland). Preziosa also offers 7-night Northen Pearls roundtrips to Le Havre, Southampton, Amsterdam, Zeebrugge. MSC Poesia (homeported in Warnemunde) offers 11-night Baltic voyages on 7-night roundtrips to Norwegian Fjords and Baltic capitals. Meraviglia returns to Northern Europe and Splendida joins Meraviglia in homeport Kiel for scenic itineraries to Ireland and North Cape. Poesia’s 21-night voyage visits Greenland and Iceland.
For 2020, Seaside continues with Caribbean cruises (7-night itineraries) out of Miami FL and visiting Ocho Rios Jamaica, George Town Grand Cayman, and Cozumel Mexico. Rounding Western Caribbean roundtrips on Armonia visit Havana Cuba. San Juan Puerto Rico, St Thomas Island, Ocean Cay Bahamas, Nassau. Both ships visit MSC's private island Ocean Cay.
In season 2020-2021 MSC brings two ships to South Africa. This is the first time when two different class vessels are deployed there at the same time - Musica and Opera. From December 2020, Opera is homeported in Cape Town, joining Musica (based in Durban). Both vessels offer 60+ departures. Highlights include Pomene Bay Mozambique, MSC Pomene Safari Beach Club, Portuguese Island, Maputo, Port Elizabeth. Ahead of the season, both vessels offer Grand Voyages (repositioning) leaving from Venice - departing on October 25, 2020 (Musica) and November 8, 2020 (Opera) to Cape Town and Durban. In 2019-2020, Orchestra makes its maiden season in South Africa (November 2019 April 2020) with 3-4-5- and 11-night roundtrips from Durban.
In 2020, MSC Lirica offers two new itineraries (Italy, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro) - departures May 8-June 12, and September 18-October 23. Lirica sails on a 7-night Gems of the Adriatic Sea from Venice to Dubrovnik, Corfu, Kefalonia, Kotor, Split, before heading to the new homeport Trieste (summer 2020) with longer port stays in Corfu, Cefalonia, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Split. For the first time, MSC plans a voyage from Venice to Malta and Sicily:( 22 June-September 7, 2020).
MSC Lirica sails on 7-night voyages that feature 2 of the most popular cruise ports for MSC guests - Valetta was ranked #1 and Dubrovnik also features in the top 10. Departing from Venice on Mondays, Lirica then reaches Dubrovnik - the most popular cruise destination in Croatia. The ship then calls at the islands of Corfu and Kefalonia before reaching Valetta. The final visit is to The Archaeological Park of Syracuse - a new destination for MSC Cruises.
MSC Cruises offers the line's first-ever season from the port of Piraeus (Athens) in summer 2021 as well as makes a welcome return to Turkey via embarkation in Istanbul and calls for the first time at Kusadasi in 2 new Eastern Mediterranean itineraries. The company anticipates that international passengers from North America and Europe are attracted to both programmes.
In summer 2021 (May through September), MSC Lirica will be homeported in Piraeus-Athens (Greece) to operate roundtrip Eastern Mediterranean cruises. The program has planned a total of 23 departures on a 7-night itinerary visiting Mykonos Island, Haifa (Tel Aviv, Israel), Limassol (Cyprus), Rhodes Island, Kusadasi (Ephesus, Turkey). MSC offers fly-cruise deals to Greece (Athens Airport) with cruise fares inclusive of flights from Northern European cities.
MSC Fantasia, which boasts the ‘ship within a ship’ Yacht Club experience, is scheduled to sail 25 separate 9-night trips between April-September 2021 from Istanbul to Kusadasi; Katakolon; Piraeus; the Greek island of Corfu; Bari and the northern Italian port of Trieste for a trip to Venice before she sails back to Istanbul.
For international passengers who embark MSC Cruises' Fantasia at ports other than Istanbul, they'll be thrilled that the vessel allows for a 12-hour visit in the port city where Europe meets Asia.
MSC Cuba cruises from Havana
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:
- 8-day roundtrip from Havana, visiting Roatan (Honduras), Belize City (Belize), Costa Maya (Mexico), Isla de la Juventud (Cuba)
- 8-day roundtrip from Havana, visiting Montego Bay (Jamaica), George Town (Cayman Islands) and Cozumel (Mexico).
- Cruisers can combine both itineraries into a 14-night Havana back-to-back cruise.
- 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 UK / Marella Cruises (ship Marella 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 the USA to Cuba was thought charter flights only.
IMPORTANT: On June 4, 2019, the US Government announced new regulations (economic sanctions) that ended group travel to Cuba, including via US-homeported cruise liners, effective immediately. The ban relates to "private and corporate aircraft, cruise ships, sailboats, fishing boats, and other similar aircraft and vessels". The US travel restrictions impacted hundreds of pre-scheduled cruise itineraries, which were adjusted to no longer stop in Cuban seaports.
New Terminal at PortMiami
In July 2018, Miami-Dade County and MSC Cruises signed an agreement for extended preferential berthing rights and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the building of a new Cruise Terminal AAA at Port Miami.
Port Miami is the exclusive home port of the company in the United States. The new agreement extends the existing Saturday preferential MSC berthing rights also to Sundays. Additionally, the new cruise terminal, due to be completed by October 2022, is projected to be able to accommodate line's next-generation, MSC World Class cruise ships (still under construction) carrying up to 7,000 passengers.
The revolutionary MSC Seaside, which debuted late 2017, sails year-round from Port Miami to the Caribbean from recently completed Terminal F. Line's MSC Divina also offers seasonal Caribbean cruises from October through March, while MSC Armonia joins the North American-based fleet of MSC Cruises beginning year-round voyages to Havana December 2018.
As of November 2019, MSC Cruises' largest ship, MSC Meraviglia joins the other 3 ships at PortMiami.
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