MSC Cruises

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Review of MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises Ltd (MSC Crociere, msccruises.com/en-gl) is a passenger shipping company headquartered in Genoa and Naples. MSC was established in 1960. Today, MSC Crociere is a fully-owned subsidiary of MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) - the world's 2nd largest containership company (after Maersk). MSC Crociere is the world's largest privately-owned cruise company. Stats for 2020-Q4 show MSC ranked the world's 3th largest cruise shipowner (by combined fleet's passenger capacity ~13%), preceded by Carnival Corporation (39%) and RCG-Royal Caribbean (24%). The company's current management team is led by Pierfrancesco Vago (Executive Chairman), Gianni Onorato (CEO), Emilio La Scala (President and Managing Director).

In 2021 was launched the company's new travel brand MSC EXPLORA JOURNEYS, with a separate fleet of four luxury ships. The brand's main competitor on the European market is Viking OCEAN.

Between its official launch (2003) and July 2019, MSC served 20-million passengers. MSC is currently the world's fastest-growing cruise company with a USD 20,5 billion investment plan (2017-2027) for building 17 new liners and increasing its fleet to 29 vessels.

The parent company MSC (shipping) was founded and owned by its current Chairman Gianluigi Aponte (1940-born). Since 2014, the company's President and CEO is his son - Diego Aponte, while his daughter (Alexa Aponte Vago) is the CFO. MSC entered the ship cruising market in 1988.

The company's main competitor on the European market is Costa Cruises.

Company history

Founded by Achille Lauro as "Lauro Lines" (aka Flotta Lauro), MSC entered the cruise shipping business in the 1960s. Initially, MSC operated two ships - Achille Lauro (IMO 5390008, launched as "Willem Ruys") and Angelina Lauro (IMO 5264077, launched as "Oranje"). Angelina Lauro (1939-1979) burnt in St Thomas USVI in 1979. Achille Lauro (1947-1994) sank off Somalia'scoast due to onboard fire.

MSC Cruises logo - CruiseMapper

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 boats are scheduled for refits and extensive drydock refurbishments under the company's "Renaissance Program" (budgeted USD 273 million). By this project, all four vessels (Armonia, Lirica, Opera, Sinfonia) were stretched/elongated by 25 m (80 ft).

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

Ship-reconstruction works were done at Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo Sicily, between 2014 (August 31) and 2015 (November 17).

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

Since 2021, all MSC cruise ship refurbishment projects are conducted at Palumbo Malta Shipyard (co-owned by MSC / 50% stake). Palumbo Group's other shipyards are in France (Marseille) and Italy (Ancona, Naples, Savona).

Most of the MSC cruise fleet operates in Europe (Mediterranean and Baltic). The company's other strong markets are the 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.

Company changes 2022

In mid-March, MSC Group announced a partnership with Travelife Ltd for Explora Journeys' shore excursion program. "Travelife for Tour Operators" allows tour companies and travel agents access to the company's online management system (16x sustainability modules) with excursion checklists, planning tools, travel- and tourism industries' best sustainability practices examples.

In late-March, MSC became the Official Cruise Partner of "Formula 1".

Company changes 2021

For summer 2021 season (July-October) MSC chartered flights (26000+ seats) to offer fly-cruise packages via partnerships with Europe's largest airlines including Iberia (Spain), Alitalia (Italy), Air France, Eurowings (Germany) and Neos (Italy). This way MSC guaranteed accessible airports and convenient flight times for accessing the homeports (embarkation ports) of 6x ships deployed in the Western Mediterranean (Grandiosa, Seaside), Eastern Mediterranean (Splendida, Orchestra, Magnifica), and the Baltic (Seaview). The package deals were also inclusive of airport-ship bus transfers and COVID health insurance (EUR 25 pp, by Europ Assistance).

On October 6, 2021, MSC opened bookings for Magnifica's Northern European winter 2021-2022 season - the company's first-ever winter season with deployment in the Baltic Sea. Starting on November 14th, the program offered 7-night roundtrips from all call ports in the itinerary (Hamburg, Ijmuiden-Amsterdam, Zeebrugge-Bruges, Le Havre-Paris, Southampton-London) and up to 12-hour port stays.

Company changes 2020

On July 30, 2020, MSC Cruises Ltd and Palumbo Group formed a 50-50 joint venture company to operate Palumbo Malta Shipyard (in Citta Cospicua). The Palumbo shipyard has 4x drydocks and will be used for refurbishments and general maintenance works on MSC ships (passenger and cargo) as well as on other cruise and ferry companies' vessels. The facilities will be updated, including with technologies to handle LNG-powered ships. The deal was signed by Pierfrancesco Vago (MSC Cruises' Executive Chairman) and Antonio Palumbo (Palumbo Group's founder and Chairman).

In late-November 2020, MSC signed a long-term agreement with ABP Southampton for preferential docking rights. The deal starts in summer 2021 with the homeporting of MSC Magnifica at Southampton's newest/5th passenger terminal. By this agreement, every year MSC has to homeport at least one ship in Southampton.

Company changes 2019

In May 2019, MSC became the industry's first mainstream cruise shipping 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).

Company changes 2018

Since September 2018, MSC 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 planned to eliminate single-use plastics fleetwide by 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 (January 2019 thru June 2024). The deal includes LED advertising at Stamford Bridge (football stadium in Fulham/west London). By the agreement, Chelsea FC representatives attended MSC Bellissima's naming ceremony (March 2019) and on the new ship was also displayed Chelsea FC memorabilia.

New ships

In 2015, MSC ordered 4 newbuilds from STX France and Fincantieri Italy, with an option for 3 more units. The first two vessels were delivered in 2017 - MSC Meraviglia (May) and MSC Seaside (November).

MSC Seaside-class cruise ship

On February 1, 2016, MSC announced it would build two "Meraviglia Plus"-class mega-liners, with max capacity 6300 passengers. The two newbuilds (Grandiosa/2019, Virtuosa/2021, Euribia/2023) have 200 additional cabins and are 16 m (50 ft) longer compared to Meraviglia-class (2444 staterooms). The last unit's/Euribia's construction started on June 28, 2021.

MSC Seaside-class cruise ship

The first Meraviglia-Plus vessel was delivered in November 2019 (Grandiosa), the second - in February 2021 (Virtuosa). MSC also announced new features on Meraviglia-Plus ships, including the 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 Seaside ship's 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 boats are bigger (16 m longer, 17330 GT tons larger, capacity 467 more passengers) in comparison to Seaview-Seaside. Newbuilds' deliveries were scheduled for 2021 May (Seashore) and 2022 November (Seascape).

  • LOA length 339 m
  • Width 41 m
  • Height 74 m
  • GT 169,400 tons
  • Capacity 5632 passengers, 1648 crew
  • Cabins 2270

MSC Cruises Seaside-EVO class ship

In early-August 2018, MSC signed an agreement for EUR 1,5 billion (USD 1,74B) 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 5x 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 the shipyard's history, 3 vessels of a single shipowner were simultaneously under construction.

On October 18, 2018, MSC signed with Fincantieri an MoA (memorandum of agreement) for building 4 new (ultra-luxury class) ships. The 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).

A curious fact is that Sophia Loren (1934-born Italian film actress) is MSC's traditional Godmother, naming each newbuild boat since 2003.

(NEW) MSC Silenseas ships by STX France

On January 20, 2020, MSC and Chantiers de l'Atlantique (STX France) signed an MoU for the development of a sail-based (wind-powered) prototype of a cruise liner. The new class will be based on the Silenseas concept (introduced by STX France in 2018) that represents hybrid propulsion combining sails with dual-fuel marine engines.

new sailing cruise ship design (STX France Silenseas)

MSC's new cruise vessel will be able to sail with min wind speed 15 knots () and wind angle 50+ degrees. The currently considered design features GT tonnage 23,000, LOA length 210 m (689 ft), passenger capacity 300 (150 staterooms).

The sailing ship can reach speeds of 12 knots (14 mph / 22 kph) under sail in 15 knots (17 mph / 28 kph) winds. In winds over 15 knots, the vessel's propellers will be used, acting as a turbine that draws power from the sails. On Caribbean Sea routes, the new technology could reduce propulsion energy by 60%.

 

STX France's sail-ship design was developed for 3 vessel sizes, the biggest being 15,000 GT tons vessel with LOA length 190 m (620 ft) and 150 passenger staterooms. The French shipbuilding company started research in sail propulsion in 2009, Silenseas has technology patents (2009 and 2017) for the new sail. The unit is made from fiberglass, carbon and epoxy-resin panels. Similar is the concept of Peace Boat's new vessel Ecoship (built by Arctech Helsinki Shipyard in Helsinki, Finland).

STX France's new wind-power technology was trialed on the Ponant-owned superyacht Le Ponant, on which one of the existing sails was replaced and the new technology tested.

Shipboard safety

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.

MSC Cruises World-Class ship

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 unit) 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), height 68 m (223 ft). The shipbuilding order included 2 initial vessels, plus 2 optional units.

Among these liners' key features are latest generation LNG-powered marine engines, new wastewater treatment plants, ultra-modern marine architecture with a Y-shaped superstructure (better panoramic views, significantly increased number of balcony staterooms), G-bow hull (vertically positioned / at a 90-degree angle, improving the vessel's stability and hydrodynamics/fuel efficiency), family-themed "villages", panoramic aft pool, glass-covered pool deck.

MSC Cruises World-Class ship

The first "MSC World" ships will be launched in the years 2022 (MSC World Europa) and 2024 (TBN). The two optional vessels (if ordered) will be launched in 2025 and 2027.

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 this 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.

MSC Cruises Ocean Cay Island port

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).

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 a 1-day stopover (port of call) during season 2016-2017 on Costa neoRiviera. 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 the 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 (March 2019-inaugurated).

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.

MSC's ZOE

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 developed a cutting-edge virtual reality tool for touring MSC cruise liners. 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).

MSC EXPLORA JOURNEYS (luxury expedition cruise brand/4-ship fleet)

In January 2018 strong rumors started to circulate about MSC considering the establishment of a new (all-inclusive luxury) cruise brand. There was also the possibility (instead of creating a new brand) MSC to just create a parallel "expedition" fleet, but in 2020 was confirmed that this would be a new brand.

MSC Explora Journeys logo

The rumors were officially confirmed in mid-March 2021 when was announced the new brand's senior management team.

  • Michael Ungerer (CEO), Chris Austin (CSO-Chief Sales Officer)
  • Sarah Doyle (CMO-Chief Marketing Officer)
  • Thatcher Brown (Commercial and Strategic Advisor), John Stoll (Destination Experience Advisor)
  • Sacha Rougier (Itinerary Planning, Shore Experience)
  • In late-November 2021 was announced the brand's Commercial Team - Helen Beck (Head of Global Sales), Saul Fonseca (Head of Sales for The Americas and USA East), Aimee Price (Head of Sales for Canada and USA West), Priti Mehta (Head of Sales for the UK and Ireland), Francisco Sanchez (Head of Sales for Germany, Austria, Switzerland), Leyre Torres Campo (Business Relationships Manager for Southern Europe/Spain, France, Italy).
  • In February 2022 as Head of Culinary was appointed Franck Garanger. He was previously employed by Silversea (as Line Chef, Executive Chef, Fleet Corporate Chef) and by Oceania (as Culinary Director).

Previous to their MSC employments, Chris Austin worked for Seabourn (SVP Global Sales and Marketing), Sarah Doyle for Bacardi Europe (Vice President Marketing), Thatcher Brown for GHK-Dream Cruises (President) and Crystal Cruises Asia (Managing Director), Sacha Rougier for Cruise Gate Hamburg/Center Steinwerder (Managing Director), John Stoll for Crystal and Silversea (as Director Land Programs).

MSC Cruises Explora-Class ship (Explora Journeys)

In June 2021 MSC officially launched its expedition cruise brand "Explora Journeys". The mandala-inspired logo was designed by Alexa Aponte-Vago (MSC Group's CFO, MSC Group founder Gianluigi Aponte's daughter, and Pierfrancesco Vago's wife).

The fleet consists of 4x smaller-sized vessels (MSC EXPLORA-class) with max passenger capacity~1000 and GT tonnage 64,000 each. The boats will be built by Fincantieri and initially deployed in Europe for 7-night Mediterranean and Baltic and longer Iceland itineraries. The four units will be constructed at Fincantieri's Monfalcone yard (near Trieste) and have building cost EUR 495 million (USD 600 million) per unit.

MSC's "Explora Journeys" ships will be introduced on an annual basis (2023-2024-2025-2026).

  • In late-September 2020, Versonix Seaware announced that MSC's new brand will use the Versonix system for online cruise booking. Annually, Versonix serves 20+ million passengers and 100+ ships. Versonix (1986-founded) is a Silicon Valley company (headquartered in San Jose CA USA) specializing in hotel and resort reservation technologies. The company is run by Victor Velton (President) and Yuri Polissky (CEO).
  • On June 10, 2021, was the steel-cutting of the first vessel (Explora I) and the official launch of the brand.
  • On April 4, 2022, was announced Explora Journeys' partnership with Signature Travel Network (El Segundo, CA USA-based company specializing in technology solutions and brand promotion/advertising/marketing). As of 2022, Signature Travel Network had 1300+ preferred partners including cruise lines/brands, tour operators and travel agents, suppliers, flight consolidators/airline brokers, car rental companies, hoteliers.

Explora Journeys' operations officially start in 2023.

(Coronavirus crisis) passenger shipping pause 2020-2021

Due to the Coronavirus crisis, MSC Cruises suspended its North American fleet's passenger shipping operations (all US-homeported liners) by canceling all voyages with pre-scheduled departures in the period March 14, 2020, through May-June 2021.

European operations resumed in 2020 on August 16 (Grandiosa) and October 19 (Magnifica) but all voyages were eventually canceled.

Next are listed MSC's first scheduled departure dates by ship/region/homeport - ARMONIA (April 10, 2022/Mediterranean from Venice), BELLISSIMA (July 2021/Red Sea from Jeddah Saudi Arabia), DIVINA (Sept 16, 2021/Bahamas from Port Canaveral), FANTASIA (Nov 7, 2021/Mediterranean-Genoa), GRANDIOSA (Jan 24, 2021/Mediterranean-Genoa), LIRICA (April 12, 2022/Med-Aegean-Athens), MAGNIFICA (June 20, 2021/Adriatic-Greece from Venice), MERAVIGLIA (Aug 2, 2021/Caribbean from Miami), MUSICA (June 5, 2022/Mediterranean from Monfalcone), OPERA (April 24, 2022/Mediterranean-Genoa), ORCHESTRA (June 5, 2021/Adriatic-Greece from Venice), POESIA (April 30, 2022/Med-Baltic repositioning/Rome-Rostock), PREZIOSA (Sept 23, 2021/Mediterranean-Genoa), SEASHORE (Aug 9, 2021/Mediterranean-Naples-Messina-Valletta-Barcelona), SEASCAPE (Nov 19, 2022/Maiden Voyage/Transatlantic from Rome to NYC New York), SEASIDE (May 1, 2021/Mediterranean-Rome-Genoa), SEAVIEW (July 3, 2021/Kiel Germany), SINFONIA (March 26, 2022/Mediterranean from Venice), SPLENDIDA (June 12, 2021/Adriatic from Trieste), VIRTUOSA (May 20, 2021/UK-British Islands from Southampton), WORLD EUROPA (Dec 21, 2022/Maiden Voyage/Red Sea from Dubai).

  • In early-January 2021 MSC planned to start Mediterranean cruises (with Grandiosa) scheduled between January 24 and March 21. The 7-day itinerary (leaving on Sundays from Genoa) visited Civitavecchia, Palermo, Naples and Valletta (Malta), with embarkation available in all the Italian ports.
  • MSC USA's pause (ex-Florida cancellations) affected 3 ships - Meraviglia and Armonia (from Miami) and Divina (from Port Canaveral).
  • MSC South America 2021-2022 winter program was canceled (due to Brazil's new policies/ordinance 657) affecting 4 ships (Sinfonia, Orchestra, Preziosa, Splendida).
  • LIRICA's Mediterranean 2021 season (7-day roundtrips from Ancona and Venice) was canceled and the liner restarts operations in 2022 (April 11/Aegean from Athens).
  • MUSICA's South Africa 2021-2022 program (from Durban) was canceled.
  • OPERA's Red Sea 2021-2022 program (from Dubai) was canceled.
  • PREZIOSA's 2021 Baltic season (Baltic-Norway from Hamburg) was canceled.
  • MSC's 2021-2022/winter South America (Preziosa, Seaview) and Arabia-Dubai (Fantasia) programs were canceled.

All affected bookings received full refunds in FCC (future cruise credit), including on prepurchased through MSC packages and services. With rebooking (made by December 31, 2021) was offered a 125% refund in FCC. Available for rebooking were all departures thru April 30, 2022. Optionally was offered a 100% monetary refund.

 

Itinerary of MSC Cruises

This section provides a concise review of MSC Cruises' current itinerary program. The company operates regularly scheduled voyages in Europe (Mediterranean, UK, Baltic), Caribbean (ex-Florida USA departures), South America, South Africa, Asia, Arabia Gulf. Currently, MSC has no plans for ship deployments in Alaska.

MSC's Grand Voyages are seasonally offered relocation cruises (RepositionCruises.com) including Transatlantic crossings (Europe-USA-Caribbean, Europe-South America), Suez Canal (Mediterranean-Arabia/Dubai UAE), Mediterranean-Baltic-UK, Europe-South Africa. Cruises to Nowhere MSC offers in South Africa.

With its newbuilds, MSC attracts a large number of retirees during winter and targets families with kids during summer and the school holidays. The company's smaller liners offer longer and more exotic itineraries but lack modern kids' facilities as they are tailored to older travelers.

Arabian Gulf 2023 cruises from Dubai and Qatar

On May 31, 2021, MSC opened for booking the voyages scheduled for MSC World Europa - the fleet's newest and ever-largest cruise liner.

The ship currently has planned an inaugural season in the Middle East (December 2022 through March 2023) based on a 7-day itinerary leaving roundtrip from 3 homeports - Dubai UAE (Port Rashid), Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Doha (Qatar).

  • The itinerary's call ports include Sir Bani Yas Island (UAE), and Dammam (Saudi Arabia, port to Al-Ahsa Oasis). Prices for the 7-night roundtrips started from EUR 815 (USD 995 / GBP 700) per person with double occupancy.
  • World Europa's Maiden Voyage departs on December 20, 2022. The 9-night Doha roundtrip visits Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Dammam, ending in Doha (Dec 29). Prices started from EUR 1280 (USD 1565 / GBP 1100) per person. The "Inaugural Cruise" was also offered as a 4-night Doha-Dubai voyage.

The "Arabian season" ends on March 25, 2023, with the 19-day repositioning cruise to Europe (Dubai to Genoa) with call ports Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, 1 seaday, Muscat (Oman), 4 seadays, Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Suez Canal transit (April 6-7), 2 seadays, Naples, Civitavecchia-Rome, Genoa (April 12).

The ship's Mediterranean itinerary program is based on 7-night roundtrips from homeports in Italy (Genoa, Naples, Messina Sicily), Spain (Barcelona) and France (Marseille), all visiting Valletta (Malta)

Cruises from China

In May 2018, MSC Splendida started service on the Chinese market following its 2017 drydock refurbishment. The China-based (Shanghai) itinerary program included destinations in Japan, Korea, China.

MSC offers cruises in China since 2016 (with MSC Lirica), followed the deployments of Splendida (2018), and Virtuosa (2022).

MSC 2022-2023 itineraries

In summer 2022, MSC has its first-ever homeporting season from Piraeus-Athens Greece (7-day Eastern Mediterranean itineraries on MSC Lirica) and also offers embarkations in Kusadasi-Ephesus (Turkey) and Limassol (Cyprus Greece).

  • The season (between April 2022-October 2023) has scheduled a total of 28 departures from Piraeus. The Athens roundtrip visits Kusadasi, Haifa (Israel), Limassol, and the Greek islands Rhodes and Santorini (Thira).
  • Crete Island (Port Heraklion) is included in four 11-night voyages (planned for November and December 2022.
  • MSC will deploy 3 more boats in the Eastern Mediterranean in summer 2022. MSC Armonia visits Athens on a weekly basis, while Fantasia (from September 2022) offers 11-night sailings to Athens. MSC Musica's summer program also visits Greece - Heraklion, Katakolon-Olympia, Santorini.
  • MSC fly-cruise deals to Greece (Athens Airport) are inclusive of flights from several major Northern European cities.

MSC's winter 2021-2022 cruise program has itineraries in the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, South Africa, Caribbean, South America, plus Grand Voyages (world cruises).

MSC homeports 4 ships in the USA - from Miami Florida and Port Canaveral. MSC Seashore offers alternating itineraries visiting Mexico, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Bahamas (Ocean Cay), Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic. The Miami-based MSC Armonia offers 3-4-7-night voyages to Ocean Cay, some offer an overnight at the MSC's private island. MSC Divina (from Port Canaveral in the summer) relocates in December to PortMiami. The ship offers 3-4-night mini-cruises to Bahamas (Ocean Cay), different 7-night itineraries, and an 11-night special itinerary to Aruba, Jamaica, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Ocean Cay. MSC Meraviglia (maiden homeporting in Port Canaveral) offers 3-4-night mini-cruises plus 6-7-8-night sailings with full-day calls in Mexico (Cozumel and Costa Maya). MSC Seaview during winter 2021-2022 is homeported in Fort-de-France Martinique for 7-night Antilles and West Indies cruises (visiting Guadeloupe, St Lucia, Antigua, Barbuda).

For winter 2021-2022, MSC has 4 ships deployed in the Mediterranean. MSC Grandiosa visits Genoa, Barcelona, Marseille, Palermo Sicily, Civitavecchia-Rome and Valletta Malta. MSC Fantasia has a 7-night itinerary program with 3 embarkation ports (Barcelona, Genoa, Marseille) plus La Spezia, Livorno and Naples, before Palma de Mallorca. MSC Magnifica offers 11-night cruises with 2 different itineraries roundtrip from Genoa. The first visits Katakolon, Piraeus, Rhodes, Haifa Israel (overnight), Heraklion Crete, Civitavecchia-Rome, and back to Genoa. The second visits 5 countries with ports Genoa, Barcelona, Casablanca Morocco, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Funchal, Malaga, Civitavecchia, and back to Genoa. MSC Poesia offers 5- and 10-night cruises from Genoa plus World Cruise 2022 (starting January 5).

In the Arabian Gulf, MSC has 2 ships for winter 2021-2022 out of Dubai UAE. MSC Virtuosa (since April 2021) is sailing to Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, Bahrain and Doha Qatar, before returning to Dubai. MSC Opera's 7-night itinerary has two overnights (in Dubai) and calls in Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Muscat Oman.

The 116-night MSC World Cruise 2022 (MSC Poesia) is scheduled to depart on January 5, 2022, and visits 43 ports/destinations in 24 countries with 9 overnights.

In South America, MSC for winter 2021-2022 deploys 5 ships - 4 leaving roundtrip from Brazil, plus 1 from Argentina.

  • MSC Seaside 6-, 7-, 8-night cruises from Santos, Brazil.
  • MSC Preziosa 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-night cruises from Santos, Brazil and 7-, 8 -night cruises visiting Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.
  • MSC Splendida 7-night cruises from Santos, Brazil visiting Argentina and Uruguay.
  • MSC Sinfonia homeported in Itajai, Brazil to sail on 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-night cruises visiting Argentina and Uruguay.
  • MSC Orchestra homeported in Buenos Aires, Argentina to sail on 8-, 9-, 10-night cruises visiting Brazil and Uruguay.

In South Africa, MSC deploys 2 ships - MSC Lirica and MSC Musica. Lirica is homeported in Cape Town, Musica - in Durban. Between November 2021-April 2022, the liners offer a total of 14 itineraries (2- to 14-nights).

In January 2022, MSC opened sales for MSC Seascape's Caribbean inaugural season (based on homeporting in Miami Florida USA starting December 2022). Seascape has scheduled 2 different 7-night itineraries out of Miami:

Two more MSC ships are deployed in the Caribbean.

MSC Divina (homeported in Miami) has a new program of mixed Friday/Monday departures including:

  • 10-night to Colombia, Jamaica, Panama, Costa Rica
  • 3- or 4-night mini-cruises to Bahamas (Nassau plus Ocean Cay/overnight)
  • 7-night to Ocean Cay, Belize, Honduras, Mexico.

MSC Meraviglia is homeported in Port Canaveral/Orlando (Florida) which is a new for MSC homeport in the USA. From October 2022, Meraviglia offers mini-cruises to Bahamas (all visit Ocean Cay) and 7-night roundtrips to Mexico (Cozumel, Costa Maya), Belize, Ocean Cay.

MSC Cruises' 2022-2023 Winter lineup of voyages features 2 new ships: MSC World Europa and MSC Seascape. In total, the cruise line offers a choice of 21 vessels sailing to 190+ global destinations across 85 different countries. Choices range from mini-cruises of 3 nights to the 118-night World Cruise. The first of MSC new ships, MSC Seascape is scheduled to debut in PortMiami Florida this December, sailing a couple of choices of 7-night Caribbean itineraries. The second new ship, MSC World Europa, is the line’s first LNG-powered vessel and is due to sail in the Middle East starting December 20, 2022.

Caribbean and Antilles

Western Mediterranean

World Cruise

  • MSC offers 2 world cruises on MSC Magnifica & MSC Poesia in 2023. Magnifica departs from Civitavecchia (Rome) on January 4, while Poesia departs from Genoa on January 5.

South America

  • MSC Seashore (Brazil). 7-night (Maceio Salvador & Buzios Brazil)
  • MSC Seaview (Rio de Janeiro) 3- to 8-night (Buzios, Ilhabela, Ilha, Grande/Angra dos Reis, Ilheus & Salvador Brazil, ports in Uruguay & Argentina)
  • MSC Fantasia (Santos, Brazil) 3- to 7-night (Buzios, Ilha Grande/Angra dos Reis Brazil, Montevideo & Punta Del Este Uruguay, Buenos Aires)
  • MSC Armonia (Itajai/Santa Caterina, Brazil) 7-night (Ilhabela Brazil, ports in Uruguay & Argentina)
  • MSC Musica (Bueno Aires) Ilhabela, Rio de Janeiro, Buzios, Ilha Grande/Angra dos Reis Brazil

South Africa

  • MSC Sinfonia (Cape Town) Mossel Bay, Walvis Bay and Ludertize (Namibia).
  • MSC Orchestra (Durban) Pomene & Portuguese Island/Inhaca Archipelago (Mozambique), Walvis Bay (Namibia), Cape Town (South Africa)

Middle East

  • MSC World Europa (Dubai) 7-night (Abu Dhabi/Dubai, Sir Bani Yas, Dammam/Al Ahsa Oasis Saudi Arabia)
  • MSC Opera (Dubai) Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Muscat, Khasab (Oman).

Red Sea 2022-2023 itineraries

The world"s largest privately-owned cruise line, MSC Cruises, and the 100% Public Investment Fund-owned business Cruise Saudi, which seeks to develop Saudi Arabia's cruise industry, announced the launch of Red Sea cruises in the coming winter 2021-2022 season in April 2021. Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, and Fawaz Farooqui, Managing Director of Cruise Saudi, signed a landmark framework agreement in the Saudi capital Riyadh to mark the beginning of the partnership.

Under the terms of the new agreement, MSC Magnifica is to be homeported in Jeddah, the commercial hub and one of the biggest cities of Saudi Arabia, as well as the 2nd-largest port in the Middle East with a historical centre designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Operating 7-day Red Sea voyages from November 2021 through March 2022, the ship is scheduled to visit a selection of ports and destinations in the region and 3 Saudi ports including weekly calls to AlWajh port, the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage site AlUla.

The first-time cruises visiting destinations in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia promise culturally rich destinations, some of the best beaches in the world, and a chance for passengers to explore the traditions of the region that date back centuries.

Homeporting in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia, Mecca-Medina), MSC Magnifica is sailing on 7-night cruises, starting from November 13, 2021, through to the end of March 2022. Out of Jeddah, the liner is calling at Aqaba for Petra (Jordan), Safaga for Luxor (Egypt), then the other Saudi ports of AlWajh and Yanbu prior to sailing back to Jeddah.

With 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Al-Hijr Archaeological Site in AlUla and Historic Jeddah, both accessible to MSC Magnifica passengers, the Kingdom offers a voyage of discovery.

The itinerary is seeing MSC return to Egypt visiting the historic port of Safaga, from where travellers are able to reach Luxor - the largest open-air museum in the world with renowned Ancient Egyptian sites. The itinerary also features Aqaba in Jordan, dating back to 4,000 B.C. from where guests can reach Petra - one of the new 7 wonders of the world.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is preparing to host the inaugural Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 on December 5 in Jeddah, and guests will have the chance to follow the global sports event during their journey aboard MSC Magnifica.

To make the trip stress-free, Fly & Cruise packages are available due to a dedicated partnership with Saudi Arabia's national airline Saudia, a long-time SkyTeam member. With Friday night flights from most major European airports and New York City, vacationers arrive in Jeddah the night before the cruise begins. Due to the ship's late departure Saturday evening, there is enough time to enjoy Jeddah before the voyage departs, making the most of the stay. The same variety of return flights awaits passengers for a Saturday morning trip back home offering maximum comfort and peace of mind.

MSC Virtuosa is also debuting in Saudi Arabia. The ship's winter 2021-2022 program in the Arabian Gulf was expanded with visits to Port Dammam, Al-Ahsa Oasis (UNESCO site). Virtuosa's homeporting in Dubai (Port Rashid) UAE offers itineraries that also visit Abu Dhabi UAE, Sir Bani Yas Island (an exclusive MSC destination) and also Doha Qatar before returning to Dubai for an overnight port/city stay.

For winter 2022-2023 (November March) Bellissima is scheduled to sail 21 Red Sea cruises from Port Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) with 3- and 4-night roundtrips visiting Safaga-Luxor Egypt or Aqaba-Petra Jordan prior to returning to homeport Jeddah. Sistership Virtuosa is also expected to debut in Saudi Arabia during winter 2021-2022 with calls in Dammam (Saudi Arabia).

Mediterranean and Caribbean 2022 itineraries

In mid-December 2020, MSC announced its Summer 2022 Caribbean and Mediterranean program (April through November) based on 19 ships (2x Caribbean, 10x Mediterranean, 5x Baltic-UK, 2x Asia). MSC Caribbean itineraries are with homeporting in Florida (Miami and Port Canaveral) as embarkation ports.

In 2022, 5x MSC ships offer 7-night WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN voyages

In 2022, 5x MSC ships offer 7-night EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN voyages

In 2022, 2x MSC ships are homeported in the USA (Florida) for CARIBBEAN roundtrips. Leaving out of Miami and Port Canaveral, both liners visit Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve (private island destination in The Bahamas). MSC Seashore (from Miami) offers 2 alternative itineraries to Eastern-Western Caribbean. MSC Divina (from Port Canaveral) is sailing to Bahamas (Nassau and Ocean Cay, on 2-3-4-night mini-cruises) and to Ocean Cay and Mexico on 7-night Western Caribbean and Bahamas voyages. Divina also offers a 12-night repositioning cruise from PortMiami to Aruba, Jamaica, Columbia, Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica, Ocean Cay, ending in Port Canaveral.

Longer voyages from Genoa are planned for FALL 2022.

In 2022, 5x MSC ships offer NORTHERN EUROPEAN voyages with lengths 2-21 nights

  • MSC Grandiosa (maiden season in Northern Europe) has planned 2 alternative weekly itineraries from homeport Kiel Germany (Saturdays departures) and from Copenhagen Denmark (Sundays departures) on 7-night "Baltic Capitals" and 7-night "Norwegian Fjords" roundtrip itineraries.
  • MSC Poesia (from Warnemunde-Rostock) offers 7- to 21-night roundtrips to Norway's Fjords, Baltic Capitals and Greenland.
  • MSC Orchestra offers 10- to 14-night roundtrips from Hamburg to ports in Ireland, Iceland, Arctic Norway (North Cape, Spitsbergen Island).
  • MSC Preziosa has scheduled 2 alternative itineraries (Sundays departures from Kiel) to Baltic Capitals or Norwegian Fjords.
  • MSC Magnifica from homeport Southampton England UK offers 2- to 14-night roundtrips to Baltic Capitals, Norwegian Fjords, Mediterranean and Canary Islands.

In 2022, 2x MSC liners (sisterships) are deployed in ASIA for the first time - MSC Virtuosa and MSC Bellissima.

South America 2022-2023 itineraries

In December 2021, MSC opened sales for South America 2022-2023 season (November-April) based on 6 ships - 4 homeported in Brazil, 1 in Argentina and Uruguay, while the 6th operates a World Cruise that visits South American ports.

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 (Grand Cayman) and Cozumel (Mexico).
  • Cruisers can combine both itineraries into a 14-night Havana back-to-back cruise.

Cuban itineraries on MSC Opera were roundtrips from Havana. The list of passenger shipping lines offering cruises to Cuba included:

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) PortMiami MSC Terminal AAA

In July 2018, Miami-Dade County and MSC 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.

MSC Cruises related cruise news

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