4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
Whether new ship or old, MSC Cruises emphasizes a strongly Mediterranean-influenced ambience. For the most part, its ships traverse the Med (winter and summer) and are geared to European travelers. But the line has made a major commitment to not only sail elsewhere (South America, Canada/New England, the Caribbean, South Africa, the Gulf), but also to expand its passenger base to include English-speaking travelers. In fact, the line is so committed to expansion, it has deployed one of its newest ships, MSC Divina, to sail full-time from Miami. Likewise, the company will put MSC Seaside, a ship the company has said is designed for warm weather, in Miami, from which it will sail year-round. MSC Seaside is being purpose-built for the North American market, a first for the cruise line and debuts in 2017.
While MSC Opera had been based in the U.K., the cruise line pulled out of the market in 2015 to concentrate on its core business of fly-cruise Mediterranean sailings.
Because of the international passenger base, announcements generally are read in Italian, French, Spanish, German and English.
Life onboard, particularly when it comes to mealtime, follows a more traditional cruise schedule -- set dining times and seatmates, and a handful of optional eateries that include sushi, a buffet and an Italian restaurant.
The ships offer a standout range of unique evening entertainment offerings, from smoochy dance music to classical concerts, Cirque du Soleil-esque aerobatic shows to jazz.
While MSC cruises are typically priced at very value-oriented levels (i.e. comparatively cheap cruise fares), the ships offer a fairly unprecedented range of services and amenities that cost extra, such as a la carte menus and fees for port shuttles.
In Europe, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, the ships attract a very strong European crowd. (U.K.- and Ireland-based cruise travelers are becoming increasingly well-represented.) Caribbean sailings are geared more strongly to North American travelers.
With its newer ships, the line attracts numerous retirees during the winter season, while its efforts to cater to families during the summer and school holidays mean there are lots of kids at those times.
MSC's more classic vessels -- which lack state-of-the-art kids' facilities and sail on longer, more exotic itineraries -- are tailored to older travelers.