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MSC Cruises: The Complete Guide

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Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

Cruising is a huge industry, so it makes sense that the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) — which started out shipping cargo — got in on the venture in 1988 with the purchase of its first cruise ship. Since then, the company has been steadily growing, adding new ships and destinations to its thriving cruise line.

Although it’s headquartered in Switzerland, you’ll find MSC cruises all over the world, including throughout the United States. Let’s take a look at MSC’s cruises, where they sail and what to expect when you’re aboard.

» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now

About MSC cruises

Here’s a quick overview of some of MSC’s key features.

Package types: There are three levels of experience to choose from on MSC. Bella is the least expensive, while Fantastica allows you to get free in-room breakfast and select your room type. Aurea is MSC’s top-tier package and includes access to exclusive amenities, as well as additional discounts and dining privileges. 

Cabin type s : On MSC ships you’ll find the standard cruise ship cabins, including interior, ocean view, veranda and various types of suites. 

Main U.S. routes: MSC has only a handful of departure ports from within the U.S. Most of its routes depart from Miami to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.   

Points currency and loyalty program: The loyalty program of MSC is called the Voyager’s Club. Points are earned for the cruises you take and the money you spend while on board. 

» Learn more: The best ways to book a cruise

MSC cruise destinations

You can find MSC cruises all over the globe, including the Caribbean, Canada, New England, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Northern Europe, South Africa, South America and Asia. There are also worldwide cruises that sail to several regions around the globe.

MSC's worldwide cruises come in as the longest trips, with itineraries lasting as many as 127 nights. Meanwhile, the cruise line's shortest options include weekend trips to the Bahamas sailing for just two nights.

» Learn more: The best cruise lines

MSC cruise prices

The reviews of MSC Cruises will likely mention the price of your trip, which is often cheaper than comparable trips on other popular cruise lines. Of course, the total cost will vary based on the trip duration, time of year and what kind of room you select. The least expensive options you’ll find are on short Mediterranean cruises, which can cost as little as $119 per person.

Prices are also affected by the dates that you’re traveling. A three-night cruise to the Bahamas can cost as little as $149 per person, but that same trip can cost up to $349 per person during periods of high demand.

As you’d expect, the most expensive cruises on MSC are the longest. For example, the 127-night World Cruise costs $21,929 per person.

» Learn more: Do you need a passport for a Caribbean cruise?

What is the best MSC ship?

There are a total of 23 ships in MSC’s fleet. According to U.S. News, the best MSC ship is the MSC Bellissima. Launched in 2019, the ship boasts a full-sized bowling alley and multiple pools, along with an array of restaurants, a spa and live entertainment. The ranking was calculated using a mix of user reviews and health ratings.

What is the newest MSC ship?

The MSC World Europa, MSC’s newest ship, officially debuted at the end of 2022 in Qatar. This ship features more than 2,600 cabins, 33 restaurants and six swimming pools.

What’s included in an MSC cruise

MSC’s cruise packages are on par with other mid-tier cruise lines. No matter what package you purchase, all food and entertainment is included, as is access to the main parts of the ship. This includes pools, the buffet restaurant and a nightly seated dinner.

If you purchase a higher-end package, you’ll be able to enjoy more amenities. The Fantastica experience, for example, includes free room service delivery for breakfast. The top-tier Aurea package includes complimentary room service for all meals.

Neither Wi-Fi nor specialty drinks are included as part of the base price, but they can be purchased separately. The drink package has a range of options, including non-alcoholic drinks such as soda and different types of alcohol.

» Learn more: How to plan a cruise in 6 steps

MSC loyalty program: Voyager’s Club

Voyager’s Club is the loyalty program for frequent MSC cruise passengers. There are four levels in the program, and each has its own benefits.

Voyagers Club levels

The Voyager Clubs levels are Classic, Silver, Gold and Diamond.

How to earn: Classic membership is earned by going on at least one MSC cruise or having a confirmed booking on an upcoming cruise. This tier is for members who have between 1 and 2,199 points.

Best benefits: 5% discount on future cruises, discounts on packages.

How to earn: Earn 2,200 to 4,299 points. 

Best benefits: $50 onboard credit per person on cruises booked at least nine months before departure, double points for cruises booked more than 12 months in advance.

How to earn: Earn 4,300 to 9,999 points.

Best benefits: One hour of complimentary thermal area access, priority disembarkation, complimentary photos. 

How to earn: Earn 10,000+ points.

Best benefits: Complimentary tasting dinner, one free dance lesson, complimentary slippers and bathrobe, priority embarkation and disembarkation.

How to earn Voyager Club points

There are two ways to earn Voyager Club points. First, you’ll earn a set amount of points for taking a cruise — the specific amount will depend on the length of the cruise and the experience level you choose. Second, you’ll earn points for the activities you pre-purchase and for any onboard expenses that you incur.

Wi-Fi is not included in MSC’s basic fare. There are different packages available to those who are sailing which can be purchased before you travel or during your cruise. MSC doesn’t publish its Wi-Fi package pricing online, but for example, you can expect to pay around $270 for a two-device upgraded Wi-Fi package on a seven-day cruise with MSC Seascape.

MSC cruises are not entirely inclusive, though they do provide a lot with your base package. This includes your cabin, food, live entertainment, port stops and coffee, tea and water. They don’t include specialty drinks such as soda or alcohol, nor do they include Wi-Fi or any port excursions you’d like to go on.

MSC Cruises reviews will let you know that MSC allows passengers to add on a drink package to their cruise. The price will vary depending on your actual cruise, as well as the type of package that you choose. There are five types of packages available: Easy, Easy Plus, Premium Extra, Alcohol-free and Minors.

Expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $88 per day for any drink packages that you purchase.

Whether or not you’ll need a COVID vaccine or COVID test while sailing on MSC cruise lines will depend on where you’re going. For cruises leaving from the United States, you don’t need either. However, you will need to provide other personal information, such as your name, address and date of birth.

(Top photo courtesy of MSC)

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024 :

Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

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60,000 Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

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1.5x-2x Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

60,000 Receive 60,000 online bonus points - a $600 value - after you make at least $4,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

msc cruises quality

msc cruises quality

I Went on My First MSC Cruise, Here is My Honest Review

W hen I booked my first MSC cruise, I’ll admit that I had serious doubts. I had read so many negative reviews about MSC cruises, criticizing the subpar service, basic food options, overcrowding, and chaotic embarkation process. However, my experience on the MSC Meraviglia, departing from New York to the Bahamas, was surprisingly positive. In this review, I’ll share all the details of my first MSC cruise. Having been on over 25 cruises, I’ll be comparing my MSC experience with that of many mainstream cruise lines.  

Since I didn’t book a stateroom in their exclusive Yacht Club, this review focuses on the regular non-Yacht Club cruise experience on MSC. It’s important to note that this is an unsponsored review, and all opinions in this article are based on my personal experience.

I was a bit hesitant about going on an MSC cruise because I thought I’d be stuck with basic food like pizza and pasta. I had come across reviews praising the Italian fare but hadn’t heard much else. 

Frankly, I didn’t want to go on a cruise just to eat pizza and pasta. To my surprise, the food exceeded my expectations. Despite being a budget cruise, they served sophisticated dishes such as shrimp cocktail, escargot, osso bucco, steak tartare, braised short ribs, steak, and lamb shank. They even had a gala night with lobster and steak and baked Alaska for dessert! The best part was that the food tasted amazing. 

Kudos to the chef on MSC Meraviglia. The food was some of the best cruise food I’ve had. Every dish was delicious and well-seasoned.

I have to mention that they served the best Caesar salad I’ve ever had on a cruise. In fact, my son, who typically avoids vegetables, is now a huge fan of Caesar salad thanks to our experience on this cruise. I’m forever grateful to MSC Meraviglia for transforming my son into a vegetable eater!

I also want to give credit to the pastry chef for the amazing cakes on board. The carrot cake is incredible, and I had the Grandma’s Chocolate cake almost every night!

The only thing that reminded me of a budget cruise line was the rule allowing only one entrée per person. If you wanted an additional entrée, there was a $5 charge, and certain premium entrees like the NY Strip steak also had a $5 surcharge. However, in my opinion, the $5 charge was negligible considering the quality of the food, so it was definitely worth ordering that second entrée!

The Wait Staff

I was honestly worried that my experience would be disappointing due to poor service. One of the main reasons I go on cruises is to be pampered by the cruise staff. 

I heard that MSC might have a bad staff-to-passenger ratio, resulting in subpar service. However, my experience was fantastic and comparable to major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruise, and Holland America. 

Our waiter, Panarta, was attentive and friendly. The assistant waiter did a great job with our drinks, and the head waiter took good care of my son and niece, who have food allergies.

The Cabin Steward

I was also worried that the quality of service I would get from my cabin steward would be subpar. I thought my cabin steward, Komang, might be overworked and not be able to clean my room properly. 

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Komang did an outstanding job, even better than my experiences on more high-end cruise lines. The bathroom was clean when I arrived, with no lingering odors, which is a widespread issue on many other cruise ships. I usually have to ask for a re-clean on the first day due to bad odor, but not on this MSC cruise! 

Also, Komang was very attentive and promptly fulfilled all my requests. I always had fresh towels and even received evening turndown service. I wasn’t expecting it since other cruise lines, like Norwegian Cruise, have eliminated turndown.

I want to point out that my own experience with the cabin steward isn’t a one-off experience. My mom and sister’s cabin steward, Agus, was also exceptional. He put in a lot of effort to ensure their staterooms were promptly cleaned, with fresh towels, and the best part was that their cabins didn’t have any lingering bad odors. Agus was also always friendly and went the extra mile.

Guest Services

I was pleasantly surprised by the guest services desk. Unlike the long lines I’ve encountered on other cruise ships, the guest services line on my recent MSC cruise was always short. It seemed like there were only 1 or 2 people in line whenever I walked by. 

I’d like to think the short line is due to the happy passengers who don’t have many complaints! But I honestly think it’s because of the efficient guest services staff. The MSC Meraviglia is one of the most efficient cruise ships I’ve been on. They have assigned a dedicated guest services staff to assist passengers while they wait in line, which speeds up the process. 

For example, when I needed to link my credit card to my cabin, a staff member pulled me out of the line and guided me through the kiosk, reducing my wait time. When my nephew lost his key card, a staff member quickly reprinted it, minimizing our wait time again. Their efficiency and organization was truly impressive. 

On one occasion, I had to speak to a guest service staff member at the desk, she was pleasant and helped me solve my issue. 

Free Onboard Texting

One thing that I liked about the MSC cruise is the free onboard texting. You can text other passengers via the MSC cruise app chat feature even if you’re not subscribed to their WiFi plan. 

This made it so convenient to stay in touch with family members and locate them on the cruise ship. It was especially helpful for keeping track of my teenage daughter’s whereabouts!

I was really impressed by the buffet experience. On the first day of the cruise, the only option for lunch was the buffet, and I was worried it would be chaotic and overcrowded. 

To my surprise, the buffet was manageable, and we easily found a table for 8 people. We got on the cruise ship at around 12:30 pm, so it was peak lunchtime!

Even on sea days, the buffet was comfortable. There were always plenty of tables available and the lines were not too long. 

I think it’s because they have a lot of buffet staff whose main job is to clear the tables. In fact, their staff was almost too efficient – if you got up for seconds, you might come back to find your table cleared! 

Public Space

I’ve been on cruises where the public areas of the ship get overcrowded, causing bottlenecks. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the layout of the MSC Meraviglia. The ship is designed in a way that the public spaces are well-distributed, so you never feel like you’re in a bottleneck or caught in a big crowd. The only time it feels busy is when you exit the theater after a show, but that’s normal for any cruise ship.

Pool Lounge Chair

One of the things that I always find on cruise ships is that it is hard to get pool lounge chairs. But not at MSC. I’ve had no trouble finding an empty lounge chair by the pool, even by the indoor pool. I think it’s because they have a policy of clearing lounge chairs if they’re left unattended. I really appreciate how organized the cruise staff is on this ship.


I was pretty worried about the embarkation process. My mom had watched a YouTube video of the embarkation of MSC Meraviglia at the Brooklyn Cruise terminal, and she described it as a complete nightmare with endless lines. 

I was mentally preparing myself for the same experience! However, I was pleasantly surprised. When we arrived at the Brooklyn Cruise terminal, there was a line, but it wasn’t too long, and it kept moving. The staff was well-organized, and getting through security and the check-in process was easy. 

Once we boarded the cruise ship, they informed us that our room wouldn’t be ready until 1 pm. However, we could leave our carry-on bags in the cabin and pick up our cruise keycards, which were hanging on our cabin door. The embarkation process turned out to be smooth and effortless.

The Theater

I liked the theater on the MSC Meraviglia. Unlike other cruise ships, the theater wasn’t too big, so there were no bad seats, even if you sat at the back. They also had a reservation system, and the staff scanned your cruise card to let you in. Even if we were late, finding seats for 8 people wasn’t a problem because they had 3 shows every night, unlike other cruise lines with only 2 shows per night.

The shows were quite enjoyable. While they weren’t exactly Broadway shows, there was a good variety of performances, including singing and dancing to popular songs from different eras, some mild acrobatics, magic shows, and stand-up comedy.

One of my favorite experiences during my Bahamas cruise is the MSC private island, Ocean Cay. It’s probably one of the best cruise line private islands. 

Ocean Cay is stunning- soft, white sand and turquoise water. What’s great is that the cruise ship docks right at the island, so there’s no need for tender boats. 

Families with kids will love the calm, shallow, clean, seaweed-free lagoon—perfect for a relaxing day at the beach. Finding lounge chairs was easy. Overall, we had an amazing beach day, which is a big reason why I will go back on a Bahamas cruise on MSC.

So far, I have been giving you all the reasons why my MSC cruise was such a positive experience. Now, let’s discuss the negatives. To be fair, there aren’t many, but they are significant enough to turn some people off.

The main dining room was the biggest letdown for me. The tables were set up too close together, leaving little room to move around. They also crammed extra chairs at the tables, making it feel overcrowded. 

We were squished into a table meant for six people despite being eight people. Thankfully, we had four kids on our table, which made it less cramped, but I can imagine that it would have been extremely uncomfortable for eight adults. 

Also, because of the table set-up, the main dining room ambiance is that of a noisy restaurant rather than a refined dining experience. It doesn’t feel fancy like what I’m typically accustomed to on other cruise lines. 

Another downside is the size of the staterooms and bathrooms, which are smaller compared to other cruise lines. The cabins felt narrow, and there was hardly any closet space. Even with just myself and my two kids, we couldn’t fit all our clothes in the closet. My son had to keep his clothes in his luggage! 

One more thing that didn’t sit well with me was the electronic daily planner and menu. They don’t leave a printed daily planner in your cabin. As a result, I missed many onboard activities on the first day at sea because I didn’t realize I had to scan a QR code to access the daily planner. 

At the restaurant, there was a lack of printed menus, since they expected passengers to scan a QR code to view the menu. As a result, we were forced to share menus at my table, which was inconvenient and took away from the dining experience. 

Finally, the service in the main dining room always felt rushed towards the end. We barely had time to enjoy our coffee with dessert! I later learned that the restaurant I was assigned to had three seatings, causing the rush. Other restaurants on the cruise ship had two seatings.

Will I Cruise on MSC Again?

The answer is a definite yes. In fact, we’ve even booked another Bahamas cruise through their future cruise program on the MSC Meraviglia for the same week in June but in 2025!

We decided to sail on MSC again mainly because it’s a great value – you get good food, great service, and an amazing private island at an affordable price. I’m willing to overlook the small cabins and crowded main dining room for these benefits! (If they were to raise the price, then I don’t think I would sail on MSC.)

If you have been on the fence like me about sailing on an MSC cruise, don’t be. Don’t let the fact that it’s a budget cruise line scare you off. To be honest, I believe labeling MSC as a budget cruise line is a misconception. Apart from the small cabin size and crowded main dining room, the food and service are comparable to other cruise lines like Princess Cruise and Royal Caribbean, but at a more reasonable price! Check out: 12 Disembarkation Day Mistakes People Make When They Get Off the Cruise Ship

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The post I Went on My First MSC Cruise, Here is My Honest Review appeared first on Suburbs 101 .

When I booked my first MSC cruise, I’ll admit that I had serious doubts. I had read so many negative reviews about MSC cruises, criticizing the subpar service, basic food options, overcrowding, and chaotic embarkation process. However, my experience on the MSC Meraviglia, departing from New York to the Bahamas, was surprisingly positive. In this […]

Yours Truly Chelsea

MSC Cruise Food: My Honest Review Of Everything I Ate On My 7 Night Cruise

December 2, 2023

Going on an MSC Cruise and wondering what the food might be like? This post goes into detail about everything I ate while on Seaside for 7 nights to give you glimpse into MSC cruise food.

What is offered on an MSC cruise might vary based on what part of the world you are cruising from and will change from time to time.

I took this cruise from Port Canaveral, FL in the US.

If you’re reading this you are most likely considering taking your first MSC cruise and are wanting to know what types of food they offer.

This post will show everything I chose for breakfast, lunch and dinner on my 7 night cruise giving you a good look into what you could expect on your cruise. It will also help you see a few items you can put on your “must try” list and a few you’ll want to avoid.

This post is all about MSC cruise food.

Another post you might be interested in reading after this one:

MSC Cruise Food Menu: 7 Night Cruise Menus, Specialty Dining And More!

Cruise food is highly subjective. What one person loves, another may hate.

I do want to state at the beginning of this post that when I think something is really good on a cruise, I’m not comparing it to the best meal I’ve ever had nor do I expect that on a cruise when it comes to their included food.

I do think there are a lot of standouts you can find on a cruise that are delicious. However, most of the food is just average and nothing to write home about in my opinion but it is still good and gets the job done.

When going on a cruise I would adjust your expectations on the quality of food compared to the price you paid/if you’re eating what’s included vs. if you were to upgrade to specialty dining.

This post will just be on what is included with your cruise fare. I did not upgrade to specialty dining or to MSC’s yacht club.

Day 1: Embarkation Day

@yourstrulychelsea What I Ate On My Cruise: Day 1 #cruise #cruiseship #cruisetok #cruisetiktok #cruiseshipvacation #cruisetips #whatiate #whatiatefordinner #whatieat #whatiateonmycruise #whatiateonacruise #whatiateonvacation #vacation #vacationfood #msc #msccruises #carnivalcruise #royalcarribeancruise #disneycruise ♬ Lucky Girl – Carlina

Since it was embarkation day we did not have breakfast. Our first meal on the ship ended up being lunch about 2pm.

We went to the buffet on deck 8 of MSC Seaside. This ship actually had two buffets. The one on deck 8 was larger and had more selection than the one on deck 16 so we ended up going to it more.

Pictured: Mashed potatoes, indian curry, rice, samosa, pasta, cheese, shredded beef.

I always find that indian food on a cruise is pretty good and they offer different dish selections every single day! If curry is your thing or you want to give it a try I would definitely do so on a cruise.

The pasta on MSC tasted fresh and had good flavor. The cheese selection was also great and seemed to be good quality.

Everything else was average in my opinion.

Not pictured but shown in the video, I did grab a small brownie on the way out of the buffet and it was delicious.

We had dinner in the main dining room at 5pm.

msc cruise food

You have to start your dinner on a cruise with the bread basket. MSC did baked goods really well. I had bread and butter every night. 10/10.

carnival cruise food

My starter on night one was chicken croquettes. To be honest they reminded me of chicken nuggets from McDonald’s. I don’t mean that in a bad way, they were very tasty. Just the consistency and breading were similar. 7/10.

Royal caribbean cruise food

For my main course I decided to order the new york strip steak. I asked for this steak medium. I have had this dish a few times on cruises and it’s never been great.

This steak did not have great flavor and was overcooked. I rated it a 5/10.

is food included on Royal Caribbean Cruises

This was the shining star of the day. My first dessert was in my top five of everything I ate on my MSC cruise.

It is called coconut pistachio dacquoise. Everything about this was delicious. I can’t recommend it enough. 10/10.

foodie cruise

I am the type of person on a cruise who orders two desserts every single night.

This was crema catalana. It was a good dessert. In comparison with the other one though I did not like it as much. It had a light cinnamon taste to the custard but was lacking the burnt top I loved from a creme brulee making it good but not my favorite. 7/10.

Late Night Snack:

Later that night we went to the buffet to grab some pizza! Along with always ordering two desserts on a cruise every daya, I also will have pizza every single night.

The pizza on MSC I have to say is hands down the BEST pizza at sea. They seemed to do baked goods, pizza and most desserts VERY well.

I did not take a picture of my pizza but it is shown in the video above if you would like to take a look.

Overall thoughts on day 1:

I was satisfied with the food but not blown away yet. My first dessert and the pizza were my standouts of the day.

Day 2: Nassau, Bahamas

@yourstrulychelsea What I Ate On My Cruise: Day 2 #cruise #cruiselife #cruisetips #cruisetipsandtricks #cruisehacks #vacation #royalcarribean #royalcarribeancruise #carnivalcruise #carnivalcruiseline #virgincruise #virgincruiseline #norwegiancruise #disneycruise #disneycruiseline #ocean #cruisequestions #cruisequestionsanswered #qanda #cruisefacts #goingonacruise #crusingtok #cruisetok #cruisetiktok #cruisetiktoks #cruiseessentials #cruisefood #whatiate #whatieat #whatieatonmycruise #whatiatelnvacation #whatiatefordinner #vacationfood ♬ Cupid – Twin Ver. (FIFTY FIFTY) – Sped Up Version – sped up 8282

For breakfast we went to the larger buffet on deck 8. What I loved about this buffet is it had TONS of outdoor seating. It was a fantastic way to start the day to be able to have breakfast outside with the fresh air, looking at the wake view.

msc cruises

I kept breakfast simple this morning. I grabbed scrambled eggs, bacon and pain au chocolat.

The eggs and bacon were standard. Good but not life changing. The pain au chocolat however was AMAZING. I had so many of these over the course of my cruise. They were absolutely delicious and the best baked good I tried while on my cruise.

We decided to go back to the buffett on deck 8 to grab a quick lunch before hopping off the ship to explore Nassau. We have been to Nassau several times but had never done a walking tour of sights downtown so we decided to do that on our own.

If interested in the video of what we did in Nassau it is linked here.

royal caribbean cruise line

This was the plate my husband and I shared. I did not have the blue cheese or deli meat but he said both were good.

This lunch was not very good for me. I noticed over the course of my cruise I didn’t like my selections in the buffet as much as I have on other cruise lines.

I had chili, pasta with asparagus, mac n cheese, a samosa, fries and a burger.

The chili and pasta with asparagus were bland in my opinion. Another favorite I had on this cruise were the buffet burgers. I liked the burgers on MSC more than I have on lines like Royal Caribbean. It was always good and never dry.

msc divina dining options

For dessert we shared a plate of four small options. The best of these four was the pineapple cake on the front right.

The others were okay, not as sweet as I like (I like these very sweet).

We had dinner in the main dinning room after coming back from exploring Nassau for the day.

msc divina reviews

I did start dinner with bread and butter. It was fresh and flavorful like always.

For my starter I had the jerk marinated pork salad. This salad was a great combination of flavors. It was slightly overdressed so I lowered my rating because of it but it was VERY good. It had chicken, onions, lettuce, pineapple and more.

I rated this salad an 8/10.

vegetarian cruise food

For my entree I actually chose the vegetarian option. I am not a vegetarian but I find these options on a cruise ship are usually pretty good.

I also don’t like seafood or mushrooms unfortunately (wish I did) and those are both in the majority of dishes on a cruise so it limits my choices.

This dish was called jamaican patties filled with sweet potatoes and swiss chard.

This dish was made perfectly! It had great flavor, the sauce was an excellent addition and the pastry was flaky and delicious.

I rated this dish a 9/10.

msc cruises quality

This was MSC’s caribbean rum cake. I didn’t think I was going to like this dessert as much as I did but they really hit it out of the park.

I don’t think it is your traditional rum cake, I had not had one with chocolate on the top like this one but it did make me like it even more.

I rated this a 10/10.

msc cruises quality

This was MSC’s take on a key lime pie. Key lime pie is one of my summer favorites so I was really excited for this one.

It was tangy, light and delicious. Everything you want in a key lime pie. I rated this dish a 9/10.

msc cruises quality

We grabbed some fries with a couple of sauces. Typical french fries, nothing special but just because they’re fries they were automatically pretty good.

msc cruises quality

We also grabbed another burger and a slice of pizza without any cheese.

The burger like I stated earlier was always good and the pizza again, was done very well. The sauce had so much more flavor than I’ve had compared to other cruise lines.

Overall I was much happier with the food on my second day. The buffet was still very average besides the burgers and pizza but my main dining room dishes really were excellent. One of my best nights of food on this cruise.

Day 3: Ocean Cay, Bahamas

@yourstrulychelsea What I Ate On My Cruise: Day 3 #cruise #cruisetok #cruisefood #msccruise #msccruisefood ♬ SNAP – High and Fast – Rosa Linn

We decided not to get breakfast and got off the ship at MSC’s private island, Ocean Cay as soon as possible (around 8am).

Ocean Cay has a buffet on the island that is included. They also have a few food trucks. Some are included and some are extra.

I went to the food truck that was included because it was the closest option to the part of the island we were hanging out at.

The pasta salad was pretty good, along with the fries. The brownie offered did not have much flavor and was too cakey.

We went to the main dining room for dinner.

msc cruises quality

My appetizer on night 3 was french onion soup.

I’ve found that French onion soup is something cruise lines do very well. It was delicious and just enough.

I rated it an 8/10.

For my main dish I ordered the cabernet braised short ribs.

I really enjoyed this dish. The short ribs were very tender, the vegetables were cooked well and the sauce was the perfect compliment.

I rated this a 7/10.

My first dessert was gateau opera.

I really liked the portion sizes on MSC, it was never too much, leaving room for mulitple options if wanted.

This was super chocolatey (which I loved).

I rated this a 8/10.

My second dessert was a warm apple strudel.

Having a similar dessert on other cruise lines I expected this to be better. It was just okay.

I rated it a 5/10.

msc cruises quality

We ended our day in the buffet like usual grabbing a couple slices of pizza.

Again, I have to say MSC’s pizza is the best at sea. It’s so good.

Day 4: Sea day

@yourstrulychelsea What I Ate On My @MSC Cruises US Day 4 #cruise #cruisefood #whatiate ♬ Gorgeous – Taylor Swift

We went to the buffet again for breakfast. This is what we do most days on a cruise for the convenience.

For breakfast on our sea day I chose potatoes, an egg quiche, bacon, pain au chocolat and a plain donut.

Everything today was very good. I didn’t have much expectations for the donut on the cruise ship but it actually tasted fresh. I was very happy with the quality of this breakfast.

We spent most of our sea day at the main pool with some friends we had made.

We stopped at the buffet on deck 16 for a quick bite since our dining time was so early we didn’t want much to eat.

This was the worst day of my selections at the buffet. Nothing I had was good at all.

We had dinner in the main dining room.

For my starter on night five I ordered the beef steak tartar.

I had never tried this before and love beef carpaccio so I decided to give it a shot.

I ended up not really liking this but it was more personal preference and not the execution of the dish.

The texture of the raw beef was too much for me. I rated it a 7/10 since it tasted great, just not my personal style.

For my entree I chose the surf and turf.

This meal was another bust in my opinion. I was really excited for a good steak and this dish just did not have any seasoning at all.

I was very disappointed and had higher hopes. The vegetables were actually very good though.

I rated this dish a 4/10.

We ended up leaving our dinner early and had to miss dessert because my husband was motion sick and they would not let us take dessert to go like other cruise lines have in the past.

Since I didn’t love my dinner in the dining room we went to the buffet a couple hours later.

Every variety of pizza I had on the cruise was great.

All of the desserts were also good but the chocolate crunch one was AMAZING. I probably had 5 of those little squares.

Other Posts You Might Be Interested In:

A Complete Guide To A Cruise Ship Buffet: Everything You Need To Know

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Day 5: Costa Maya, Mexico

@yourstrulychelsea What I Ate On My Cruise: Day 5 #cruise #cruiselife #cruisefood ♬ SNAP – High and Fast – Rosa Linn

Day five was the only day we had breakfast in the main dining room. We like to do this at least once on a cruise or more if we work out schedules correctly since the time frame is more limited compared to the buffet.

This breakfast was better than expected. I ordered the eggs benedict and it was the best one I’ve ever had on a cruise ship which is definitely saying something.

As always the pain au chocolat was perfect. The chocolate muffin was just alright, needed a bit more flavor.

After we got back from our day in Costa Maya we stopped by the buffet for a late lunch.

I had a breaded pork chop, beans, pasta with fresh feta and potatoes.

The breaded pork chop was one of the best items I had in the buffet all week. The pasta with fresh feta was also pretty good.

One thing I love about cruises is they offer small portions of most things. This gives you the opportunity to try everything you want!

The chocolate options were definitely the best but all of these were good! I was very satisfied with the desserts 95% of the time.

We ended up going to the buffet for dinner. Usually one night on our cruises we are just way too tired to make it to the dining room and tonight was the night.

I wasn’t particularly in the mood for anything I saw in the buffet this night. The fruit was good and fresh. The salad bar had lots of choices. I also made a sandwhich not pictured that was just okay. The burger and fries was great as always.

Around midnight after napping in our room for the rest of the night I went back to get a couple snacks.

The pizza was good. The desserts were good as well, but not amazing.

Day 6: Cozumel, Mexico

@yourstrulychelsea What I ate on my cruise: Day 6 #cruise #cruisetok #cruisetiktok #cruisefood #whatiateonmycruise #whatiate #whatieat #whatieatonvacation #whatieatinaday #cruiselife #cruiseship #cruiseshipvacation #cruisetips ♬ Stolen Dance (Instrumental) – Milky Chance

We were going on an early morning excursion in Cozumel for our 6th day at sea so we only had about 15 minutes in the buffet to grab something quickly.

The eggs and potatoes were average. The bacon was good. The standout of this meal was the banana bread.

It was AMAZING. Finding this baked good on the second to last day of my cruise was saddening considering how good it was and the fact I only had one more breakfast to grab it.

This food was not from the cruise line but I did want to include it because both were SO good.

We went to the mayan ruins in Tulum from Cozumel. You can check out that excursion here.

We took our tour guide’s advise and after exploring the ruins, we went to Mr. Frosty’s for tacos. They were insanely good. After the tacos I grabbed some ice cream for a few dollars. It was also delicious. Cannot recommend those two enough.

We had dinner in the main dining room tonight.

I started my meal with watermelon and feta salad. This was good but was very simple so if you like both of those ingredients, you’ll like this.

I rated this dish 7/10.

For my entree I ordered chana dal. This was the vegetarian option for the night. It was just alright. Not bad but not amazing.

I rated this dish 6.5/10.

For my first dessert I ordered the chocolate duo cake. This was another top notch dessert. It was so good.

My second dessert was the coconut cake. This was good but nowhere near as good as the first.

I ranked this a 6/10.

I grabbed the burger and fries I was obsessed with all week and a little bit of pasta salad. All good.

This is a really bad picture but the food was all good. This was the first time we saw quesadillas in the buffet for late night snacks and they were a hit.

Day 7: Sea Day

@yourstrulychelsea What I Ate On My Cruise: Day 7 #cruise #cruiseship #cruiseshipvacation #whatiateonmycruise #cruisefood #whatiate #whatieat #whatieatinaday #vacationfood #whatiateonvacation #cruisetiktok #cruisetok ♬ Coconut Mall (From “Mario Kart Wii”) – Arcade Player

For our last breakfast on the ship we went to the buffet for our favorite wake view.

Since it was the last day on the cruise I grabbed all of my 10/10 favorites. The pain au chocolat, banana bread and bacon.

For lunch we went to the buffet.

I grabbed a salad that was really good. A piece of beef, it was pretty tough but did taste good. The chicken was flavored well and the pasta was average.

We ate our last dinner in the main dining room.

For my starters I chose the sicilian style arancini and the french onion soup again.

The arancini was one of the best dishes I had all week. It was perfected fried, the taste was great and the sauce was delicious.

The french onion soup I had already had andn it was also very good tonight.

I rated it a 7/10.

For my last entree I chose the caprese salad.

I am really glad I ended up getting two appetizers because this salad was awful. The flavor was not good at all. I probably took two bites. It was way too watery.

I rated this dish a 1/10.

For dessert we decided to try three options since it was the last night on the cruise.

We started with the tiramisu. It was very well done and absolutely amazing. I rated it a 9/10.

The second dessert was a lemonchello cake. It was just alright, especially in comparsion. I rated it a 3/10.

The last dessert was actually the no sugar added warm berry cobbler but the fruit made it sweet enough. This was better than expected and really really good. I rated it a 9/10.


Overall I would say that MSC does a few things very well with food and others they need improvement on, like any cruise line.

I found their pizza, baked goods and desserts the best items on any menu.

When it comes to the main dining room I 100% think if you’re going to just be eating the included food it is the way to go. I liked or loved most of my meals in the main dining room.

Compared to the buffet that needed more variety and more flavor on most things.

Overall for the price I paid (much lower compared to other lines) I was happy with the food. I always found something to eat and did end up having a few amazing items over my week long cruise.

I think when going on a cruise you need to go into it with an open mind. Remember the price you’re paying, how many people they’re feeding and that they are trying to appeal to the masses (which sometimes means less seasoning).

I would definitely take another MSC cruise, have a few of my favorites again and try more new things.

If you find yourself not loving the food, you can always upgrade to specialty dining.

This post was all about MSC cruise food.

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The ultimate guide to MSC Cruises ships and itineraries

Gene Sloan

MSC Cruises may be the biggest cruise line you've never heard of — assuming you're an American.

While the Switzerland-based company is the third-biggest cruise line in the world, it has far less name recognition among Americans than big U.S.-based lines such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line . That's because, until recently, MSC Cruises mostly catered to Europeans. A large percentage of its customers came from countries such as Italy, Germany, France and Spain.

That's all changing now — and in a big way.

For more cruise guides, news and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

As it expands its fleet at a rapid pace , MSC Cruises is massively building its footprint in North America in an effort to woo more Americans. As recently as 2017, the line only had a single vessel based in North America. Now it's up to three ships sailing out of U.S. ports, and by the end of 2023, that number will have shot up to five.

All the North America-based ships are marketed heavily to Americans, and the line has tailored some of the features and activities on the vessels to a North American crowd.

Like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line , MSC Cruises has been building big resortlike vessels that offer every sort of amusement known to humans, from giant water parks to race car simulators. It currently operates eight of the 20 biggest cruise ships in the world — one of which (MSC Meraviglia) now calls North America home with year-round sailings out of New York City.

Related: Which cruise brand is right for you? A guide to the most popular lines

3 things TPG loves about MSC Cruises

  • Its affordability
  • The incredible array of activities on its ships
  • The status match it offers with its loyalty program

What we could do without

  • Onboard announcements in five languages (on overseas sailings)

The MSC Cruises fleet

MSC Cruises has grown enormously in recent years. As recently as early 2017, the line had just 12 ships in operation. But it's added new ships at a rapid pace over the past six years and now operates 22 vessels, more than any other major line besides Royal Caribbean and Carnival. It also has three more giant new ships on the way in the next few years.

If that sounds like too many ships to get your head around, note that all 22 of the vessels in operation, as well as the three on order, fall into six distinct classes . The ships within each of the classes have similar sizes and onboard attractions. If you know one ship in the class, you know them all.

Related: MSC Cruises ships from newest to oldest — a complete list

As a result of its rapid growth, MSC Cruises recently passed Norwegian to become the world's third-biggest cruise brand when measured by passenger capacity. Only Royal Caribbean and Carnival are bigger.

Not including pulldown bunks and pullout sofas, MSC Cruises' 22 ships have 77,832 berths — about 21,000 more than Norwegian's fleet. At its current pace of growth, MSC Cruises could soon pass Carnival to become the world's second-biggest line.

As noted above, the MSC Cruises fleet includes eight of the world's 20 biggest cruise vessels — MSC World Europa , MSC Euribia , MSC Virtuosa, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Meraviglia , MSC Bellissima, MSC Seashore and MSC Seascape . Built in the last six years, these eight ships aren't quite as big as Royal Caribbean's giant Oasis Class vessels (the world's biggest cruise ships), but they're right up there when it comes to amenities and passenger capacity.

msc cruises quality

The grande dame of the MSC Cruises fleet is its recently unveiled MSC World Europa. At 215,863 tons, it's the biggest MSC Cruises ship ever built and the first of a new series of so-called World Class vessels that are nearly as big as Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships.

The next-biggest ships in the MSC Cruises fleet are its recently unveiled Meraviglia Class vessels: MSC Meraviglia, MSC Bellissima, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Virtuosa and MSC Euribia. Similar in design, these five ships aren't quite as big as MSC World Europa, but they're right up there when it comes to size, amenities and passenger capacity.

MSC Grandiosa, MSC Virtuosa and MSC Euribia, which debuted in 2019, 2021 and 2023, respectively, are a tad longer than MSC Bellissima and MSC Meraviglia and are considered a subset of the class known as Meraviglia Plus. Each can hold 4,842 passengers at double occupancy (or 6,334 passengers if every last pulldown bunk and pullout sofa is filled).

The other two Meraviglia Class ships, which date to 2019 and 2017, can carry more than 5,600 passengers with every berth filled.

In addition to these five giants, MSC Cruises also operates four large Seaside Class ships. Each has a total capacity of 5,336 to 5,632 passengers.

Add those in, and MSC Cruises operates 10 of the world's 35 biggest cruise ships, plus four somewhat smaller Fantasia Class vessels that can each hold around 4,400 passengers at maximum occupancy.

Related: A beginners guide to picking a cruise line

Together, the 14 World, Meraviglia, Seaside and Fantasia Class vessels make up MSC Cruises' big-ship fleet. The line's remaining eight vessels, split among two classes, are considerably smaller, with maximum occupancy topping out at 2,700 to 3,200 passengers.

The eight smaller ships, which in general are the line's older ships, allow MSC Cruises to offer itineraries to places that aren't as easy for big ships to visit. Not all ports in the world can handle a ship the size of the World Class or Meraviglia Class vessels, although even the biggest MSC Cruises ships are still designed to be able to call at most ports around the world.

Among the smallest MSC Cruises ships is the MSC Armonia.

The smaller ships also appeal to a subset of MSC Cruises fans who are willing to give up some onboard amenities in exchange for intimacy. They're usually less expensive on a per-day basis, too.

In addition to all the above, MSC Group — the line's parent company — has announced plans for yet another class of big ships to start arriving later this decade, though few details have been released. MSC Group is also developing a series of small luxury vessels that'll operate under a separate brand called Explora Journeys.

Destinations and itineraries

msc cruises quality

MSC Cruises sails almost everywhere in the world, but its heaviest presence is in Europe, where it's the biggest cruise operator.

In a typical summer, the line will deploy the vast majority of its ships in the Mediterranean or northern Europe. In recent years, the line has also kept at least a couple of ships in Florida in summer for voyages to the Caribbean and the Bahamas. This year, the line had two ships based in Florida for summer sailings to the Caribbean and the Bahamas, plus one ship sailing out of New York City for the summer.

During winter, MSC Cruises typically will add more ships to the Caribbean and the Bahamas. (For winter 2023-2024, it expects to have six in the region.) It'll also typically send four or five ships to South America in winter and often deploys vessels in winter to South Africa and the Middle East.

For winter 2023-2024, it'll have one ship in South Africa. The line's Middle East deployment this year has been cut back due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Additionally, MSC Cruises often offers an around-the-world cruise in winter on a single ship.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on an MSC Cruises ship

In North America, MSC Cruises ships have generally sailed out of Miami , but the line recently added Port Canaveral and New York City as home ports, too. The line also offers cruises from the Caribbean islands of Barbados, Martinique and Guadeloupe, and in a major development, the line opened its first private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve , in the Bahamas in 2019. It's a major stop for many MSC Cruises itineraries in the region.

In Europe, major MSC Cruises hubs include Southampton, England; Copenhagen; Kiel and Hamburg in Germany; Ancona, Venice, Genoa, Naples, Palermo, Bari and Civitavecchia (the port for Rome) in Italy; Barcelona, Valencia and Palma de Mallorca in Spain; and Marseille, France.

Who sails MSC Cruises?

msc cruises quality

MSC Cruises is increasingly known for having big, bustling megaships that'll appeal to people who like a megaresort experience. In other words, if you're the kind of person who loves staying on property at Disney World or at a giant Las Vegas resort , this could be the line for you.

The bigger MSC Cruises ships offer vacationers a ton of options for dining (some vessels have more than a dozen distinct places to eat dinner or at least grab a quick bite) or entertainment. They're lively and fun.

They also have an inordinate amount of teen- and tween-friendly attractions — everything from some of the largest waterslides at sea to sprawling amusement areas with race car simulators, flight simulators and XD cinemas (more on all this below). That makes them particularly appealing to families, including multigenerational groups. Families are a big part of MSC Cruises' business.

But it's not just families that flock to MSC Cruises.

The line's ships are designed to offer something for everyone, and they thus appeal to a wide demographic, including couples of all ages and even solo travelers (the line has added solo cabins on its newer ships and occasionally runs promotions for solo travelers). They also draw customers from a wide range of the income spectrum.

At one level, MSC Cruises ships have a for-the-masses feel. However, overlaid across many of the line's ships are high-end suites, upscale restaurants and luxury services — most notably the suites and amenities in the exclusive, upscale MSC Yacht Club areas found on some vessels (more on that later). As a result, the line draws a good number of luxury-seeking travelers.

The demographic profile of MSC Cruises ships can be markedly different depending on where the vessels are based. On Caribbean sailings out of Florida, you'll find that a large percentage of passengers are English-speaking North Americans.

MSC Cruises voyages in Europe are often heavily filled with Europeans speaking Italian, German, Spanish and French, as well as some English speakers. In Europe, the line offers onboard programming in all five of these languages (all crew members speak English no matter where the ships are sailing).

Reality check: Due to the diverse origins of passengers on European sailings, the line typically makes announcements in all five of the aforementioned languages. This can result in extraordinarily long announcements at times, which can be a distraction to some cruisers. The good news is that on sailings out of U.S. ports, only safety announcements are made in all five languages. Other announcements are in English only.

Cabins and suites

msc cruises quality

MSC Cruises offers a wide range of accommodations on its ships. On its newest vessels, you'll find everything from relatively low-cost, windowless "interior" cabins that measure as little as 172 square feet (perfect for the budget traveler) to suites more than five times that size that sprawl across two decks.

Still, MSC Cruises doesn't offer the sort of truly giant suites (more than 1,000 to 2,000 square feet) you'll find on some Norwegian and Royal Caribbean ships.

msc cruises quality

At the high end, the accommodations are aimed at affluent travelers who, for whatever reason, prefer the megaship experience to being on a luxury ship, and they can be quite impressive.

The biggest suites on MSC Grandiosa, which launched in 2019, span two levels and offer around 635 square feet of interior space, plus another 237 square feet of outdoor balcony space.

msc cruises quality

On more than half of MSC Cruises' ships, many of the top suites are part of an exclusive, keycard-accessed area called the MSC Yacht Club . Billed as an upscale "ship within a ship" and aimed at luxury travelers, the MSC Yacht Club is at the very top of vessels and comes with a private lounge, a pool, sunning areas and even its own restaurant.

Related: Everything you need to know about MSC Cruises cabins and suites

MSC Yacht Club accommodations also come with 24-hour butler service and a dedicated concierge.

msc cruises quality

Solo cabins (called interior studios) measuring just 127 square feet can be found on the line's seven newest vessels.

Insider tip: Passengers can use the interactive TVs in cabins to browse information, find out about daily events and activities, check bills and book services. On some ships, MSC for Me interactive wristbands can open your cabin door and also allow you to book services or make contactless payments for items on board.

Restaurants and dining

msc cruises quality

While a few of MSC Cruises' smallest ships have relatively limited dining venues, many of the line's vessels offer a wide range of choices.

On the line's recently unveiled MSC Euribia, for instance, there are nearly a dozen distinct eateries, as well as a number of bars and lounges that serve at least small bites. MSC Seashore has five specialty restaurants that feature waterfront, outdoor seating on the ship's boardwalk.

Every vessel has at least one or more main dining rooms and a casual buffet where meals are included in the fare.

For dinner in a main dining room, you must either have My Choice dining with the Aurea experience (a flexible dining option where you dine whenever you want) or classic dining (where you have a fixed table and time for dinner).

Nearly every ship also has at least one — and sometimes quite a few — extra-charge venues. Among the most common across the fleet is the American-style steakhouse Butcher's Cut, which is found on more than half the line's vessels. There also are sushi bars on more than half the line's ships, with varying names like Kaito Sushi and Galaxy Sushi.

The line's newest ships have teppanyaki restaurants, too, and passengers on MSC Cruises' Seaside Class ships, as well as MSC Meraviglia and MSC Splendida, can dine at a Mediterranean-style seafood restaurant.

Several of the line's newest vessels, including MSC Grandiosa and MSC Bellissima, also have the French cuisine-serving L'Atelier Bistrot.

Entertainment and activities

MSC Cruises offers a broad range of entertainment and activities on its ships. As noted above, the line's biggest vessels offer multiple entertainment venues, from Broadway-style theaters to spaces for circus-like performances; all manner of deck-top attractions; large casinos; and full-service spas. Plus, you'll find multiple bars, lounges and nightlife spots.

Theaters and shows

msc cruises quality

Like other megaship lines, MSC Cruises is known for big, glitzy theater productions performed in onboard theaters that are as state-of-the-art as anything you'll find on Broadway.

On the line's newer ships, such as MSC Euribia, MSC Virtuosa and MSC Grandiosa, there are main theaters that hold nearly 1,000 people. They offer as many as six different full-scale theatrical productions during a typical voyage, with multiple showtimes for each production and a range of styles. You'll find original Broadway-style musicals, piano concerts and even operas.

Some MSC Cruises ships have high-tech, multipurpose entertainment spaces that serve as comedy clubs and karaoke bars but can also transform into music venues. Dubbed the TV Studio & Bar on some ships, these spaces also house radio and TV broadcasting equipment, and they can host games, quizzes and talent contests aired live on TV sets in cabins.

Other interior attractions and activities

msc cruises quality

In addition to entertainment spaces, the interiors of MSC Cruises ships are loaded with other venues where passengers can kick back and let loose day and night, including a seemingly endless array of bars, lounges and nightspots.

Every MSC Cruises ship has a casino, and on the line's larger vessels, they are big operations. Le Grand Casino on MSC Grandiosa, for instance, has 164 slot machines, 12 table games (including blackjack, roulette and poker) and its own bar.

The five Meraviglia and Meraviglia Plus Class vessels also have soaring interior mall-like spaces called Gallerias with bars, restaurants and retail shops, as does the new MSC World Europa.

Many of the Gallerias, for example, are home to an innovative chocolate bar and boutique created by well-known French patissier and chocolatier Jean-Philippe Maury.

The Gallerias on the five Meraviglia and Meraviglia Plus Class vessels — MSC Euribia, MSC Virtuosa, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima — are topped with one of the most stunning features found at sea: a dazzling "digital sky" made with curving LED screens that offer regular light shows during the day and evening. There's something similar on MSC World Europa.

The bigger MSC Cruises ships also have interactive game zones with such attractions as Formula One racing simulators, immersive XD cinemas, arcade games and even full-size bowling alleys.

msc cruises quality

For something more soothing, all MSC Cruises ships include spas. These can be quite big on the larger vessels, with expansive thermal areas and a wide choice of treatments and services.

Insider tip: Passengers can get information about onboard entertainment and restaurants (and make reservations) on the interactive screens found around MSC Cruises vessels.

Top-deck attractions

msc cruises quality

The top decks of MSC Cruises ships offer pools, hot tubs and plenty of lounge space, plus some spectacular family-focused fun zones — on the line's newest ships, at least.

On the line's Meraviglia and Seaside Class ships, top-deck amenities include sprawling back-of-the-ship water parks with multiple waterslides, ropes courses and watery play areas for the little ones.

msc cruises quality

Some ships even have zip lines — the longest at sea.

Additionally, the main pool areas on the newest MSC Cruises ships are among the biggest and most stunning at sea. Some of the line's ships also have adults-only pools topped with glass ceilings that can be opened on warm days.

Children's programs

msc cruises quality

MSC Cruises has some of the most extensive children's programs at sea, with dedicated clubs and activities for children as young as a couple of months old through the age of 17.

On most ships, the line offers programming for five distinct age groups.

For the very youngest cruisers, there's Baby Club, a program for babies and toddlers up to the age of 3. The line partnered with baby care brand Chicco to develop dedicated Baby Club play areas on every ship with toys, games and music and rhythm activities. You can leave your toddlers at the clubs, which have dedicated staff, or stay and play with them.

MSC Cruises ships also have a dedicated Mini Club (ages 3 to 6) and Junior Club (ages 7 to 11) with age-appropriate activities. Designed in partnership with the Lego Group, the Mini Clubs offer games, events and activities such as arts and crafts. Junior Clubs have a Masterchef at Sea Juniors competition, plus acting, dancing and singing activities.

Related: New MSC Cruises ship in New York is bigger than the city's biggest hotel

MSC Cruises ships also have Young Club, a tween program (ages 12 to 14) that includes sports tournaments, high-tech games and other activities.

Then there's Teen Club (ages 15 to 17), which hosts disco parties, karaoke parties and Wii, Xbox and PlayStation 4 tournaments. On MSC Grandiosa, teens even get the chance to pilot a drone through an obstacle course during an activity called the Drone Academy, and the ship holds a teen dance competition designed in partnership with the company behind "The X Factor."

Kids and teens clubs on newer MSC Cruises ships can also access cutting-edge equipment like 3D printing machines, virtual reality devices and 3D product scanning, all of which are used in activities.

What to know before you go

Required documents.

If you're a U.S. citizen on a cruise that starts and ends in a U.S. port, you'll need either a current passport or an official copy of your birth certificate and a driver's license or other government-issued photo identification to sail. Passports must be valid for at least six months.

For cruises from international ports, you'll need a passport. It's important that the name on your reservation is listed exactly as it appears on your passport or other official proof of nationality.

MSC Cruises adds an automatic service charge of $16 per person to final bills on sailings out of U.S. ports. Sailings with pricing in euros have a 12 euro charge ($13.13 at current exchange rates). Children 2 to 11 pay half the adult rate on most cruises. Children under 2 are not charged for service.

Also, a 15% gratuity is added to bills at bars for cruisers who do not have a drinks package. If you buy a drinks package, the gratuity charges for drinks is folded into the package price when you book it. A 15% service charge is also added to items in minibars, salons and spas.

Related: Tipping on a cruise ship: Everything you need to know

MSC Cruises has been rolling out Wi-Fi with speeds so fast that you'll be able to watch Netflix from your room on your mobile device. Unlike some lines, though, MSC Cruises doesn't offer flat-fee pricing for Wi-Fi. Instead, MSC Cruises charges by the number of devices you use and how you want to use the internet (think: browsing, texting, sending emails or video streaming).

Basic packages for browsing start around $72 for one device with unlimited data. A two-device plan with unlimited data for browsing costs about $109. There's also a four-device browsing plan for about $223. If you're looking to stream video along with other internet uses, you'll need a streaming plan. These start around $100 for one device and can be as high as $313 for a four-device plan.

Unlike other cruise lines, MSC Cruises does not let passengers switch their internet plan from one device to another during the cruise, even if they're only using one device at a time. Make sure you sign up for the Wi-Fi plan on the device you intend to use it with. If you'll want access on both your phone and your tablet, you will need a two-device plan.

Passengers can chat with friends and family on board ships even if they don't have an internet package by downloading the MSC for Me app to a smart device. The app also lets you book services on board.

Carry-on drinks policy

Unlike some lines, MSC Cruises doesn't allow passengers to bring their own alcohol on board.

Smoking policy

Smoking (including electronic cigarette smoking) is allowed in a limited number of designated areas on ships, with the primary smoking area on ships being an outdoor pool area that varies by ship and is indicated by signage. Smoking is forbidden in cabins and on cabin balconies, and those who violate this rule will face a $250 fee.

Unlike some lines, MSC Cruises does not build self-service launderettes onto its ships. Vessels offer extra-charge laundry and dry-cleaning services.

Electrical outlets

All vessels have standard North American-style, 110-volt outlets in rooms, as well as European-style, 220-volt outlets. A growing number of vessels also have USB ports in cabins.

For cruises in the Caribbean, South America and South Africa, as well as on MSC Grand Voyages going to Europe and to Australia, the onboard currency is the U.S. dollar.

On cruises in other parts of the world, the onboard currency is the euro. All vessels operate on a cashless system with any onboard purchases you make posting automatically to your onboard account. You'll receive a Cruise Card (or, on the newer ships, an MSC for Me wristband) that you can use to make purchases.

Drinking age

You must be at least 21 years old to consume alcohol on sailings in the U.S. and the Caribbean. The drinking age on sailings everywhere else in the world is 18.

During the day, there's no specific dress code, and people dress casually. If it's a sea day in a warm-weather destination and you're bound for the top deck, that means dressing for the beach — T-shirts, shorts and bathing suits (with a cover-up to put on when you go inside) are just fine.

On most evenings, the line recommends "smart casual" dress, meaning summery dresses for women and a lightweight jacket for men. On select days, the line also holds Gala evenings on its ships where the dress code can be more formal. For Gala evenings, if dining in a main dining room, the line suggests a tuxedo, dinner jacket or dark suit and tie for men and a dressy outfit, formal gown or cocktail dress for women.

Related: Cruise packing list: The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise

MSC Cruises loyalty program

MSC Cruises has a point-based frequent cruiser program, the MSC Voyagers Club , that has four tiers ranging from Classic (requiring 1 point) to Diamond (10,000 points).

Members earn points based on the length of the cruises they take and which "experience" they book on those sailings. There are four different "experiences" you can book on an MSC Cruises sailing, each with different inclusions and price points. The most basic "Bella" experience will get you fewer points than the top "MSC Yacht Club" experience.

For a sailing of under five nights, for instance, your earnings would range from 200 to 800 points depending on the experience you book. For cruises that are five to nine nights in length, you'd earn from 500 to 1,500 points depending on the experience.

Every person in your stateroom will earn points for the cruise. You can also earn points with onboard spending and any bookings you made before embarkation. You'll earn 100 points for every $150 in prepaid and onboard expenses.

Know, though, that there are a couple of key caveats. Only the Voyagers Club member who makes the final payment for the onboard expenses will receive those points. For prepaid expenses, points will be equally distributed among the cabin occupants.

Say, for example, the total amount of prepaid onboard services that apply to all cabin occupants before the cruise is $600. If there are four cabin occupants, the spending for the points calculation of each member will be $150, which is equal to 100 points.

As is typical for cruise line loyalty programs, the entry-level tier (Classic) doesn't bring all that many truly valuable rewards. By far the most alluring benefit at this level is the 5% discount that members get when booking future sailings (note that this discount is not valid on Tandem and MSC Grand Tours). That's real savings every time you book a cruise.

The real perks begin at Diamond status, which brings a free dinner in an extra-charge restaurant, priority embarkation at the start of a cruise and priority disembarkation at the end of a cruise.

Unlike with most cruise line loyalty programs, you won't automatically keep your status forever with MSC Cruises. Once achieved, your status is good as long as you take a cruise at least once every 36 months. If you don't, not only will your points disappear, but your entire account will be erased, requiring you to re-enroll and start all over again.

That's the downside of the MSC Voyagers Club. However, the program also comes with one very big upside: MSC Cruises will let you status match your way to top-tier Diamond status based on your status level with any of more than two dozen other loyalty programs — not just those run by competing cruise lines but also those operated by Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton. It's very rare in the cruise world.

How much does an MSC Cruises voyage cost?

MSC Cruises is known for some of the most affordable ships at sea. It's not uncommon to find MSC Cruises voyages to the Caribbean and the Bahamas from under $75 per person, per night, including all taxes and fees — at least in the offseason.

For instance, at the time of publication, four-night sailings from Miami to the Bahamas in September 2024 start at just $249 per person, not including taxes and fees of $100. That works out to just $87.25 per person, per night, with taxes and fees, for a package that includes your lodging, transportation and meals.

As you might expect, pricing for ships will generally be lower during offseason periods such as September, October and parts of November.

The timing of when you book can also matter. Cruises book up much further in advance than airplanes or hotels, and many cruisers will tell you the best pricing for any given sailing often is available when cruises first go on sale (which can be a good two years before a departure). Booking far in advance also gives you the best chance of getting your preferred cabin type and location on a ship.

Once on board an MSC Cruises ship, you'll pay extra for most drinks, extra-charge restaurants, spa services, shore excursions, internet and a few other amenities — unless you've paid up for a more inclusive package.

When pricing cabins, MSC Cruises offers one of four main "experiences," each of which comes with different inclusions and varying price tags. The basic "Bella" experience includes your room, dining in the main restaurants and buffet, and access to all the included features of the ship, such as kids programs and theater shows.

Note that if you book the Bella experience, you cannot select a specific cabin. You can only choose between the broad categories of inside, ocean-view or balcony cabin, and a cabin is later assigned to you.

One step up is the more expensive "Fantastica" experience, which adds room service and breakfast delivered to your cabin, priority choice of dinner sittings, access to additional kids activities and classes, and more. At this level and above, you can pick a specific cabin when booking.

With the even pricier "Aurea" experience, you'll get complimentary access to the spa's thermal area, priority boarding and other perks. The Aurea experience also comes with access to My Choice dining and an exclusive sun deck area that on many ships features an exclusive bar and hot tubs.

Then there's the MSC Yacht Club experience, mentioned above, which is the ultimate in onboard living. Even with its higher price tag, the MSC Yacht Club still provides great value for its wide range of perks, such as unlimited drinks in all MSC Yacht Club areas, including premium spirits and minibar items.

Related: 15 ways that cruising newbies waste money on their 1st cruise

How to book

If you're sure you know what sort of cabin you want, on which ship, on which itinerary — and about a dozen other things — you can head over to the MSC Cruises website to book directly.

That said, given the complexity of booking a cruise (there are a lot of decisions to make during the booking process: trust us) we recommend you use a seasoned travel agent who specializes in cruises. A good travel agent will quiz you about your interests, travel style and preferences, and steer you to the perfect cruise line, ship, itinerary and cabin for you. They also can help if something goes wrong just before, during or after your voyage.

If you're sure MSC Cruises is your line, look for a travel agent who specializes in trips with the brand. You want someone who knows all about the line's various cabin categories and, preferably, has done ship inspections to see them firsthand.

Whether you use a travel agent or not, make sure to maximize your purchase when paying for the cruise by using a credit card that offers extra points for travel purchases . This could be the Chase Sapphire Reserve , which offers 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining (excluding the annual $300 travel credit). There's also the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card , which earns 2 points per dollar spent on travel (and dining).

Related: How to book a cruise using points and miles

Bottom line

Long a major player in Europe, MSC Cruises is growing fast in North America with a lineup of big, new, amenity-filled ships.

If you're a megaresort lover, you'll feel right at home on MSC Cruises' new World, Meraviglia and Seaside Class vessels, which rival the biggest vessels of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian for their array of onboard amusements.

You'll also love their affordability. Among the world's biggest ships, they offer some of the lowest pricing. You'll be sharing your vacation with hordes of other people, of course — as many as 6,000 on some MSC Cruises vessels. However, even the biggest MSC Cruises ships have quiet nooks where you can escape the crowds.

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msc cruises quality

MSC Cruises Review & Everything You Need To Know

There is a lot of talk about MSC Cruises right now since they are making a huge push into the American cruising market. With so many questions about MSC, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about taking an MSC Cruise!

Key Points:

MSC Cruises has gained attention in the American cruising market, sparking discussions and questions among potential cruisers. The brand’s European roots influence its offerings, with a mix of positive and negative aspects compared to other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival. MSC emphasizes “experiences” such as Bella, Fantastica, and Aurea, each offering different benefits. The Yacht Club provides an elevated experience with exclusive perks. MSC offers beautiful, modern ships with reasonable prices and a variety of food options but may lack in included entertainment and premium dining experiences.

  • MSC Cruises has made a significant push into the American cruise market, prompting various discussions and opinions.
  • The cruise line’s European roots influence its offerings, with a mix of positive and negative aspects compared to other major cruise lines.
  • MSC emphasizes different “experiences” like Bella, Fantastica, and Aurea, each providing unique benefits for passengers.
  • The Yacht Club offers an elevated experience with exclusive perks, although it may come at a higher cost.
  • MSC Cruises provide beautiful, modern ships, reasonable drink prices, affordable packages, a variety of food options, but may lack in included entertainment options and premium dining experiences.

Take a look at any cruise-related Facebook group or Reddit topic, and you’re bound to find endless questions about MSC. Not only are there questions, but there are also plenty of opinions about the newish cruise line (MSC has been sailing in Europe for a long time). The brand is polarizing.

msc cruises -deals - cruisegear

So what is a cruise really like on MSC?

NOTE: Most people compare MSC with Royal Caribbean or Carnival. That’s the perspective we’ll take when laying out all of this information.

In response to many inquiries about the “real deal” about MSC, I would like to share some insights. As seasoned cruisers, we have traveled on many ships, including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line , Carnival, Virgin , Cunard, Holland America , Celebrity, and MSC. Additionally, we’ve cruised with companies that no longer exist like Pullmantur. Every cruise line has hits and misses, so it’s important to keep everything in perspective when evaluating a new cruise experience. Rarely are cruises perfect.

When it comes to the ship’s overall decor and beauty, MSC has a huge advantage, especially when compared to any older or midsize ships for Carnival or RCL. However, comparing MSC’s newer ships to mega ships is an apples-to-oranges comparison. The pool decks and slides on MSC were excellent, and the service was fine, with no noticeable difference.

What to Expect from an MSC Cruise

MSC Cruises, having started in Europe, has carried over many of the European aspects of its brand to the American market. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, but it’s at least consistent.

In Europe, MSC is regarded as a “higher-end” cruise experience when compared to brands like P&O, Costa, and the now-defunct Pullmantur. However, that doesn’t cut it with American cruisers who are used to endless (Free) entertainment, expansive buffets, higher-end premium dining options, and impeccable service.

This is where you start hearing from people complaining about MSC Cruises.

If you’ve been to Europe, and understand that the cruise line has its roots based in Europe, the fact that everything is an up-charge and some services aren’t as friendly or efficient as other cruise lines, you won’t be surprised. But if you are a typical American cruiser who’s used to the big names in cruises, you’ll probably be frustrated to some extent (more on that later). However, if you are a first-time cruiser, and this is your first experience with this type of vacation, you’ll likely be elated and happy with everything, because in reality, there’s not too much to complain about, especially given the value of these vacations.

Pros and cons of MSC Cruises

What we like about msc.

  • Beautiful, Clean & Modern Ships
  • Reasonable drink prices
  • Affordable packages (Drinks & Dining)
  • Variety of food options
  • The pizza is AMAZING!
  • Specialty Coffee & Bottled water included in the most basic drink package
  • Value for money, especially for families

What we don’t like about MSC

  • The experience feels like nickel and diming, where so many things cost extra.
  • Unusual approach to Dining Packages
  • Customer service is disinterested and sometimes downright rude
  • Food quality is average at best in the main dining rooms + buffet
  • Confusing beverage and drinks packages

MSC Cruises vs Royal Caribbean vs Carnival vs Norwegian Cruise Line

To get an accurate comparison, it’s essential to evaluate apples to apples and determine what matters most to you on a cruise. This review pertains to US sailings to the Caribbean and Bermuda, not European sailings – though we have done MSC in Europe, a completely different article will cover that! Let’s be clear from the outset: there’s no comparison between MSC and the higher-end cruise lines such as Cunard or Disney which provide a superior experience at more than twice the cost. So, let’s focus on comparing MSC to Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival, which seem to be the cruise lines that MSC is “going after” with their marketing.

A few major differences usually come down to the following:

Price – when comparing cruise lines, MSC is usually less expensive for nearly identical itineraries. But remember to take into account the paid extras like entertainment and most dining outside of the main dining room and buffet.

In addition to the lower fares, MSC Cruises’ automatic gratuities are usually lower than competing cruise lines.

Continuing with lower costs, the drink packages and dining packages are considerably less expensive than other cruise lines. See the entire MSC drink package pricing . While the drink packages are still quite expensive propositions, MSC often has the basic “Easy” drink package as a promotion, included in the fare making upgrading to a more expensive package reasonable.

It’s more of an international clientele – with MSC being known better in Europe, there will be a significantly higher ratio of international passengers, which can be entertaining and a great way to get exposed to other cultures without leaving the USA. Unfortunately, this means you also have to listen to announcements in many languages.

The cabin stewards are more like what you’d expect in a traditional hotel rather than a cruise ship. They’re efficient and good, but they aren’t chatty and visible at all times. This likely comes down to the fact that on most traditional cruise lines, Americans tip extra, sometimes quite a bit extra to the room stewards and cabin attendants, so they are happy to be known and visible. On the contrary, tipping cabin attendants on an MSC cruise is not as typical (again, with European roots).

Is MSC Cruises a good cruise line? Possibly – For Some.

This question is asked so often in forums and chat groups, it’ mind-boggling! It’s a very subjective question with so many ways to answer.

In general, I think MSC can offer an amazing cruise experience with great value, especially for families. With promotions like kids sail free and some of the most affordable cruise rates on the market, it makes for a good cruise experience and a good cruise line.

For cruisers who are experienced travelers with other major cruise lines, it will be a mixed bag on whether or not MSC is a “good” cruise line.

In general, they are just as good as any other cruise line, depending on what your priorities are. In the end, I always hate to say “it depends… ” but it depends. That’s what this article hopefully addresses for all types of cruisers.

Why are MSC Cruises so cheap? Hint: It’s in the “Add Ons”

First, “cheap” is relative and subjective. MSC Cruises feel like an inexpensive option to other cruise lines, but often by the time you add up all of the additional fees, they end up being very close in price to other similar lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean. It’s clear that MSC Cruises is making a push into the USA market and they are discounting heavily on certain routes, but looking closer, there are some itineraries where MSC is definitely more expensive than the competition.

MSC is definitely budget-friendly when it comes to family cruises, as they often have “kids sail free” promotions. With these promotions, a family of 4, for example, can vacation together for half the cost of a traditional beach vacation. So this makes for a relatively cheap family vacation or family cruise for sure!

MSC Cruises includes only the basics, everything else is for a fee

When considering MSC for a vacation, it’s good to know that the price you see may look good, but there are going to be extras, a LOT of extras. While this isn’t all bad, it’s important to understand. I fully believe in being able to craft my own vacation experience by starting with a base price and adding on what I want rather than feeling compelled to take advantage of included items that I’m not really interested in. With MSC, the cruise rates are affordable and sometimes downright cheap but plan for extras. Any food and beverage outside of the included main dining room and buffet are for an additional fee, entertainment is often fee-based, and drinks can add up fast (although there are MSC Drink packages )

MSC Cruises Review & Everything You Need To Know 1

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MSC Sells Cruise “Experiences” The Aurea, Bella, and Fantastica Experiences explained and compared

MSC Cruises sells “experiences”. The cabins on the MSC Ships are effectively identical regardless of experience (with the exception of a couple of suites and the Yacht Club). So rather than purchasing a cabin or stateroom TYPE, you purchase an EXPERIENCE that grants access to different facilities and services. This approach is unique and we actually LIKE this method of selling experiences rather than a class of cabin.

The MSC experiences explained

There is the “Bella” Experience – which is the base fare and really is bare bones. It’s a cabin + the included dining onboard (buffet and main dining room) as well as the use of all the public spaces and access to the complimentary entertainment.

For a little extra, you can purchase the “Fantastica” experience , which is the Bella + the added benefit of some flexibility, with one allowed free cruise change. Additionally, you can order room service for breakfast with no delivery fee. So many people enjoy breakfast in their cabins, that this may be worth it for many passengers. Additionally, you can request which dining time (late or early) you’d like in the main dining rooms.

The “Aurea” experience is the top-level experience, which gets you all of the Bella and Fantistica experiences and more. With the Aurea experience (available on balcony rooms only), you receive :

  • a premium stateroom location
  • access to the Aurea solarium which is for Aurea guests only
  • chocolates and prosecco in your cabin on the day of boarding
  • anytime dining
  • discounts on spa treatments
  • priority boarding
  • Free 24-hour room service

The Aurea experience is usually quite a bit more than the base fare (Hundreds of dollars per passenger), so you’d have to really ask yourself if access to the Top Exclusive (Aurea) solarium is worth the price, as the other benefits are minimal.

The MSC Yacht Club Explained

Where most cruise lines separate their experiences by class of cabins such as Norwegian’s HAVEN and Celebrity’s RETREAT, MSC has come up with the “Yacht Club”. The big difference is with the MSC Yacht Club and other cruise lines, is that it’s offered with interior cabins as an option. This is a great option for people who really want an elevated experience but don’t feel the need for a balcony room, which is generally more expensive. Additionally, speaking with passengers who have experienced the Yacht Club on MSC Cruises almost universally adores it! I’ve yet to find anyone who has spoken negatively about the MSC Yacht Club. Unfortunately, it’s not affordable for everyone, so I have an issue with the fact that the service on the rest of the ship is sometimes sub-par, so you shouldn’t have to be in the Yacht Club to have a good service experience throughout the ship.

What do you get with the Yacht Club experience on MSC?

  • Dedicated priority check-in and check-out as well as priority departure and return on excursion days
  • 24-hour butler service and a dedicated concierge
  • Room Service is available 24 hours a day
  • Premium Extra Drink Package  
  • Premium Internet package (Browse – 2 devices Unlimited Internet Package)
  • Complimentary access to the Thermal Suite in the MSC Aurea Spa
  • Relaxation amenities in each suite (including bathrobe, and slippers)
  • Pillow menu
  • Other personal touches: luggage packing/unpacking service, newspaper directly delivered in a stateroom on request
  • 1 free cruise change
  • Upgraded and elevated suites offer a more comfortable room size and are located in the foredecks of the ship
  • Dedicated, private area of the ship accessible only to MSC Yacht Club guests
  • A private and spacious pool deck with whirlpool baths and sunbathing area, an outdoor bar with the very best views
  • Panoramic Top Sail Lounge with bar, afternoon tea service, light bites available day and night, and live entertainment in the evening
  • Gourmet restaurant with a la carte dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with free choice of dining time
  • Tailormade experiences from shopping to excursions
  • 20% discount on a prepaid dedicated specialty restaurant package
  • 40% discount on a prepaid dedicated spa package
  • 10% discount on all spa treatments purchased on board

MSC yacht club photo

The Yacht club is only available on select ships and is not usually available on the older ships sailing in Europe. Ships with Yacht club include: Bellissima, Divina, Fantasia, Grandiosa, Meraviglia , Preziosa, Seascape, Seashore, Seaside, Seaview, Splendida, Virtuosa (and on the upcoming World ships)

Entertainment on MSC Cruises

The comparable evening shows on MSC are on par with those on Royal Caribbean and Carnival, but they come with a fee, whereas other cruise lines rarely charge extra for entertainment. However, the cost for the Cirque shows on MSC are very reasonable and enjoyable. Other entertainment included with the fare are more like variety shows, singing, dancing, etc.

As expected, there are other entertainment options throughout all MSC Ships including bands, solo singers dancing, poolside music, etc. However, nothing compares to some more mainstream cruise lines with “things to do” on a cruise. So if you compare overall activities on MSC versus Carnival or Royal Caribbean, you’ll likely be disappointed.

So, if you’re looking for a ton of activities all day, every day, there appear to be fewer options on MSC, as the entertainment and daily activities are not as robust as you might expect for such modern ships.

For experienced cruisers who expect big production shows included in the fare may be disappointed with what MSC has to offer.

MSC Meraviglia Theater Show Cirque

The Buffet, Main Dining Room & Specialty Restaurants on MSC ships

Many people consider food to be a significant factor in their cruise experience. In this regard, I find the buffets on all the ships I’ve been on to be acceptable. While MSC didn’t have as many included options like Guys Burger and the Blue Iguana, it wasn’t a deal-breaker for us. We always found something enjoyable, and the variety at breakfast, with more meats, cheeses, and bread, was a nice departure from the US cruise lines.

Regarding the included sit-down meals (main dining room), I would rate MSC last when comparing all major cruise lines, although they were not inedible by any means. I am content with the included main dining room meals because, for me, if I’m not cooking, I’m happy.

The buffets on the ships are usually expansive but not much changes on a 5 or 7 day cruise. The food is fine, but the pizza is amazing. So if we found ourselves in the buffet, it was usually for a pizza and salad.

There are a number of for-a-fee restaurants on MSC ships (basically all restaurants cost extra). For foodies and people who find the food experience on a cruise to be a priority, they may find what MSC calls “specialty” or “premium” dining lacks quite a bit. While it’s not BAD, it just doesn’t live up to the other major cruise lines when it comes to premium dining.

To get the most out of the specialty dining on MSC, consider buying a dining package. More details on the MSC dining packages here .

Specialty Dining on MSC Cruises

Butcher’s Cut – The staple steak restaurant found on most MSC ships can actually cook a great steak. our only complaint is the presentation and the odd choice of sides (as well as their presentation).

Kaito Sushi – A lovely sit-down sushi bar where most of the menu is done quite well, with a few exceptions (like salmon hand rolls)

The Teppanyaki restaurant onboard is usually attached to the sushi bar. A great family event with good food and in a show cooking style.

Hola Tacos – Think food truck / street tacos meet sit-down restaurant. The selection is great and this was by far our favorite restaurant on the ship. Not because it’s fancy or particularly high-end, but because it delivers consistent, good food every time (and they’re usually open for lunch!)

Ocean Cay Restaurant – The seafood concept found on many MSC ships was hit or miss with the prep of the food and overall food quality.

Specialty restaurants vary per ship.

MSC restaurants

MSC Cruises’ demographic and typical passenger

MSC’s overall demographic isn’t on the extreme side of young or old; it’s a nice mix. If you’re looking for a party cruise and a lot of drinking, you may want to explore other options. Not that there is a lack of a “good time” to be had, but there are usually a lot of families, meaning fewer late nights and all-night parties.

Ocean Cay, MSC Cruises Private Island

MSC’s private island, Ocean Cay , is fantastic if you want to relax and enjoy the beautiful sea and sand. The food trucks spread around were a nice alternative. However, it’s not comparable to RCL’s island, with its many slides, pools, and other activities. But we liked that. We loved the feeling of an island retreat more than a built-up water park. I think it was a great choice for MSC to make it a retreat rather than a playground.

One thing to note is that MSC’s website is the least user-friendly of all the cruise lines I’ve used. The pre-cruise registration process is quite wonky compared to other websites.

MSC ocean Cay excursion prices

  • Read : MSC Ocean Cay Excursions with Prices

MSC Voyagers Clubs Program

As with most cruise lines, MSC has a customer loyalty program they call the Voyagers Club. Unfortunately, until you get to the highest levels of the program like the Diamond live, there are not a lot of perks. However, the best benefit of being a member is a 5% discount on all bookings (and even greater discounts when booking early). What makes this program unique across the cruise industry is the fact that MSC Cruises’ status matches with other loyalty programs . Even more unique is it’s not limited to just other cruise lines, they also status match to hotel programs.

Our final thoughts

The popularity of MSC Cruises has led to a plethora of debates and opinions about the cruise line in online communities such as Facebook and Reddit. Despite MSC’s long history in European waters. The brand continues to polarize opinions, with some cruisers loving the newish cruise line and others feeling less enthusiastic. Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or a newcomer to the world of cruising, the debate surrounding MSC Cruises is sure to captivate your attention.

Ultimately, your personal priorities will determine which cruise line is right for you. If price is a significant factor, MSC provides great value for money. If you’re looking to relax, sit by the pool, enjoy cruise ports, and aren’t hyper-focused on food, MSC is a great option. We have booked a 6-night Bermuda cruise in September for a total of $1200 +/- for a balcony cabin. In contrast, for the same dates and destination, Carnival’s prices ranged from $1950 to $2300 for a 5-night outside cabin, and RCL charged $2000. Disney, on the other hand, charged an eyewatering $3100.

msc cruises what to know

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Phil Crane

Cruise Gear Editor

I'm a global nomad at heart, and the dedicated editor behind CruiseGear. For the past two decades, I've experienced exciting voyages across the world, discovering countless ports from the decks of dozens of ships, visiting 40+ countries (and living in some of them for years). It's been an exhilarating journey to say the least! I want to share everything I've learned and hope to make your next cruise vacation as enjoyable as possible.

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As an American, I found your article pretty fair. I realize it seems strange using that opening line, but I did do it to make a point. To me, it seems those who are complaining about MSC the loudest are Americans. We did a 7 day in Northern Europe in November with MSC. There is a long story behind this, but we did half of the cruise in a two room suite with a hottub on the balcony and then the other half in a duplex suite in Yacht Club.

What I noticed about the complaints, it was Americans, and it was food related. MSC does not know what a double gulp is. Perhaps they didn’t realize that they could just order more.

Your comment about service with the stewards was interesting. What we observed was that the staff seemed to be trained to be invisible to the passengers, but available when needed. If we needed our steward (pre YC), all we had to do was make a call and the steward was there within minutes. If we needed our butler in YC, it was just a quick phone call. What we learned is that all we needed to do was put forth a little effort and ask for service and it was never an issue. If not, the staff was going to leave us alone. We were happy that our steward and butler knew our names before we introduced ourselves.

YC is a whole other world. One thing that you didn’t mention that I thought was very well thought out by MSC was putting the interior rooms in YC. Imagine this scenario . . . the matriarch and patriarch of a family want to have a nice cruise with their offspring. They need a room for themselves and then 3 other rooms for their kids. They can get a nice suite in YC and the kids can have interior rooms. Because YC is not really crowded, finding a spot for 10 people by the pool, hottubs, etc, it is simple. You could go to the concierge desk and ask for a table to be put together for dinner for the 10 of you.

I commend you for being honest that there is a value prop at play. MSC, to us, offers value for what we receive. We never feel that we are ripped off and overcharged. We have friends who are trying to get us into the Retreat on a cruise in September. They got a room, it was 22k for 7 days. A comparable room in YC is the Duplex Suite (it’s a little bigger and has a hottub.) That room is 8k. To us, there can’t be 14k more in value.

Thanks for the article, again, it was fair, especially mentioning how wonky MSC’s website is 🙂

Hi David – Thanks for your great comment and feedback. I didn’t mention the YC mostly because …. (very personal opinion) I hate how all of the brands have made an option (Yacht Club for MSC) which is not available to the masses due to price and it really divides the experience. I understand why it exists, but usually when I do a review, I try to put it in perspective of what MOST people will experience on the ship. I hate that you know hove to pay extra for a class of service that used to be standard in the industry years ago. 🙂 – In the end, though, MSC, regardless if you choose their standard cabins or YC experience, it really does provide a great value if you can overcome the quirks.

Thank you! We are normally loyal to Royal and are now expanding our experiences with MSC Meraviglia out of New York… We received an offer we couldn’t refuse through our local casino! I find that people complain on all forums…I listen but do not take it to heart, because everyone is different! Your article is great and I will continue to read your reviews!

Hi Lorraine, Thanks for the positive feedback on the article!

It’s definitely worth giving MSC a try, as you said everyone is different and so many things are subjective. That’s why we try to make our reviews as objective as possible and tell it how it is while keeping polarizing opinions to a minimum 🙂 Enjoy your trip and don’t let the complaints in all the forums take away from a good time. As with everything, it is going to be what YOU make of it! MSC is unusual, but as long as you know what to expect going in, you’ll enjoy it.

Great article and very helpful. We’ve been on close to 20 cruises, all with RCL and were disappointed in the last one so we are going to give MSC a try next spring on the Seascape.

Thanks for reading the Article, Nick! I hope you enjoy the cruise. Keep in mind it’s totally different than RCL! So try not to directly compare the experiences when you cruise 🙂

Also ! Don’t forget to status match! If you’re any status with RCL, MSC will give you status which might make it even better. See the MSC status match info here .

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Everything I Ate on my MSC Cruise (Photos and Menus) – Food Review

If you are taking a cruise with MSC , you may be wondering what the food will be like. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are all included at no extra cost on an MSC cruise.

I’ve just disembarked a cruise on the MSC Seaview and in this post we will look at everything I ate in the main dining room, buffet and room service. Menus are also provided.

I took my first MSC cruise in 2012 and the quality has increased dramatically in my opinion.

Buffet – Included

The buffet on the MSC Seaview was open from early in the morning until late at night. During our cruise, only half of the buffet was open due to the reduced capacity of the ship but we still had lots of choices.

The buffet at dinner time consisted of:

  • Freshly Cooked Pizza
  • A Grill Section (Burgers, Hot Dogs, Steaks etc.)
  • Wellness Section
  • Family Dining
  • Ethnic Corner (Usually Indian)

The sections would be different for breakfast and lunch.

MSC Cruises buffet food broccoli pizza potatoes and chips

The above photo is of one lunch I had in the buffet. The great thing about the buffet is that you can combine anything that you think looks interesting.

msc cruises buffet breakfast food fruit doughnuts and bread

The above photo is of my breakfast, they did have cooked breakfasts available as well as cold options but I always prefer a cold breakfast.

Most of the breakfast doughnuts we had were good and they also had waffles and pancakes.

In the grill section, they had example food which I liked. All of these burgers/steaks were cooked freshly so this made it easy to see what you were ordering.

msc cruises buffet grill section with burgers and hot dogs

There wasn’t a vegetable burger on show here but I asked the crew and they happily cooked me one from fresh. It was tasty.

We would often pick up a slice of pizza or a little box of chips.

msc cruises buffet pizza and chips

There were multiple types of pizza available and they were constantly being replenished.

They also had things like bruschetta and garlic bread.

msc cruises pizza and brucetta

There was a big outdoor seating area outside the buffet where we would usually eat.

There was waiter service here too and we never had to wait in order to order a drink.

msc cruises buffet lunch sandwich carrots bread and chips

The above shows one of my dinner combinations. They also had sandwiches and other items for dinner.

msc cruises buffet breakfast fruit bread and water

MSC bake all of their own bread and they usually have lots of choices.

msc cruises buffet dessert section

There were lots of little desserts available throughout the day. I did wish that they served the breakfast doughnuts later in the day but we would usually just have a little cake or cookie.

The below is a kind of sugared pineapple dessert pizza, it was SO TASTY. I could have eaten a full-sized pizza of this.

msc cruises buffet desserts cookies pineapple pizza

The cookies were small but good, they were more like shortbread biscuits than cookies, but I think it still counts.

Main Dining Room – Golden Sands – Included

There are multiple main dining rooms on board the MSC Seaview. Our cruise was sailing at 23% capacity so only one main restaurant was open.

We were assigned late dining (9 pm) but we were able to change this to early dining (6.30 pm). We went to the dining room during the lunch opening hours and they were able to change our table for us.

There are no fixed dining times for breakfast or lunch. Guests are able to eat in the main dining room whenever it is open for breakfast or lunch.

Menus can be viewed in advance on the MSC app.

msc cruises main dining room lunch menu

The food was all very good and we never had any problems with anything.

The great thing about a cruise is that you can order as many things from the menu as you’d like for no extra charge.

msc cruises main dining room dinner menu

MSC make all of their own pasta onboard and it’s probably the thing that MSC do best. If you are in doubt about what to get, I’d always recommend the pasta.

msc cruises quality

The potatoes were also always nice!

Our second dinner was the ‘elegant’ dinner. On this night guests are invited to dress to impress if they would like to.

The dress codes are suggested.

To learn more about the dress codes on MSC cruises, check out this post: MSC Dress Code Photo Guide – 96% Agree The Dress Codes are Relaxed

msc cruises main dining room dinner menu elegant night

The Lasagna Portofino may not look like much but it may be my favourite meal that I had on board.

I hadn’t ever had a Lasagne Portofino before the cruise and that’s what’s great about cruising, you can try new things and might find something you love (like I did here).

The After Eight Dessert is always good, if you see it and like chocolate and mint, definitely order it.

msc cruises main dining room dinner menu

The Black Bean Chowder isn’t very photogenic but it was tasty, as were the calamari rings.

msc cruises main dining room food steak pasta and dessert

I thought it was a little odd that the baked potato arrived still in its foil but it was well cooked and the steak was nice too.

I had pasta which was very good again and I also enjoyed the dessert.

msc cruises main dining room dinner menu

The oriental roll was probably my favourite starter from the cruise.

It was something I’d never usually have at home and I enjoyed it.

msc cruises main dining room menu falafel and chocolate cake

My only criticism of the dessert was that it could have done with some more cream, but I’m sure they would have given me some had I asked.

Speciality Restaurant – Asian Fusion (Cost €0 But Normally €39)

I have diamond loyalty status with MSC which means that I get a free meal in a speciality restaurant.

I achieved the diamond loyalty status by matching my NCL loyalty status to MSC.

MSC are the only cruise line that will match loyalty statuses from other cruise lines. It’s pretty easy to do and it is well worth taking advantage of the freebies.

If you are cruising with MSC are do have a loyalty status with another cruise line, or some hotel brands, make sure you match your status. My guide as to how to do it is here: MSC Status Match – Step by Step Application Guide and Chart .

We went to the Asian Fusion restaurant and the loyalty status perk entitled us to a free dining experience, worth €39 each.

msc cruises asian fusion speciality restaurant menu dining experience

We dined quite early (6 pm) and for a while, we were the only guests in the restaurant!

msc cruises speciality restaurant asian fusion steak pineapple cake and chocolate cake

We loved our meal in the speciality restaurant, everything was tasty and because there were only a few guests in the restaurant it was like having our own waiters and private chefs!

Room Service – Cost: €11

We embarked the MSC Seaview late at night so decided to order room service.

There is a charge for each room service item and also a delivery fee.

In total this pizza came to just under €11.

After 17 hours of travelling it was worth every Euro.

msc cruises room service pizza

This is the same pizza that you can get in the buffet, we paid basically to have a whole pizza to ourselves and to have it delivered. I wouldn’t usually do this, I’d normally go to the buffet to get the pizza myself, but in this situation, it was well worth it.

To learn more about everything that is included in an MSC cruise, check out this post next: Do MSC Cruises Include Meals? (Firsthand Experience) – Your Guide To What is Included

MSC do differ to the American and British cruise lines but I like them, to find out why they’re so different, check out this video:

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  • MSC Cruises

Probably the most accurate review of MSC's food I've seen...


By Stockjock , October 21, 2023 in MSC Cruises

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There are some good things and not so good things about MSC.  I've been critical where warranted (IMO), but one thing I will say is that they've held steady or improved in a number of areas where other cruise lines have cut back drastically.  I went on a Celebrity cruise last month (and again in 2 days) and the food, while edible and sometimes even very good, was a shadow of what I've had on Celebrity in the past. I've always found MSC's food to be pretty decent.  While meals are hit and miss, they're usually good to very good.  This is one area where I've long felt MSC got a bad rap, unfairly. Anyway, I've not seen this guy's videos before, but I thought he was fair and objective.  His experiences, more or less, mirror my own.  I'll be back on World Europa soon, so I'll be able to see if anything has changed, but we often sail MSC once or twice per year, and their food quality has been pretty consistent, in my view.  


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We had our first cruise with MSC on the Meraviglia in April of this year.  We are not dining room folks, so all our meals were in the buffet.  We were quite pleased with our meals particularly since we had read so many discouraging reports about their food. We did 3 Royal Caribbean cruises(Anthem 1, Oasis 2) also this year and were much more disappointed in the Windjammer than the MSC buffet.

We are looking forward to our April 2024 cruise aboard the Meraviglia.  Always keep in mind that critiquing food is very subjective. 

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@CruisingWalter  is usually spot on.

Fla Mike

Great job Walter!



Wow, @Stockjock  thank you so very much for your kind words! I try to be fair when it comes to the food reviews because food is so subjective. I hate it when people just label an entire ship or an entire cruise line as "good" or "bad" because even when you don't have the best overall food experience, there are always nice surprises. And man that affogado in Venchi was a HUGE surprise! 🙂  

And honestly one of my favorite food experiences on the ship was that second MDR dinner that wasn't the best food at all, but our server was hilarious by just being honest. Her reactions when I asked about various dishes was priceless. And she pretty much told us straight up what to expect from each of our dishes and she was right. It was a weak meal, but joking about it with her made it a fun experience. 

We sailed MSC Seaside not long after that CDC report and honestly had no idea what to expect. We had a fun time accepting MSC for what it is and will be on her bigger sister the Seashore in December. Happy cruising everyone! 🙂  

I will board my 7th MSC cruise since Jan 2022 in a week and have been pleasantly surprised by the food. Based on the reviews I read prior to sailing with MSC, I expected it to be terrible. In dozens of meals in the dining room, buffet and specialty restaurants, I have only had one dish I considered inedible and most have been excellent. 


1 hour ago, CruisingWalter said: Wow, @Stockjock  thank you so very much for your kind words! I try to be fair when it comes to the food reviews because food is so subjective. I hate it when people just label an entire ship or an entire cruise line as "good" or "bad" because even when you don't have the best overall food experience, there are always nice surprises. And man that affogado in Venchi was a HUGE surprise! 🙂    

I also am a huge fan of affogato.  I always order mine with a shot of Bailey's and prefer it without the chocolate sauce that some put on it.  Can't wait to try it on the MSC Divina in February. 

Critiques of food on MSC I think often come down to very simple things. Things like breakfast sausage on an MSC cruise are very far from American expectations. So when someone goes from a line like Carnival with a Guy Fieri quick service restaurant over to MSC, I can imagine it's a bit of a shock.



In my opinion (and I will be able to verify for myself in a few weeks), the quality of MSC food has been maintained or increased where lately other lines are moving in the opposite direction.

Anyone who I have corresponded with on these boards over the years will know that I like to cruise MSC 'despite' the food, but I don't think that's accurate now especially in view of the cutbacks other lines are making. MSC have a real chance to stand out actually.

Thanks for the video Walter, very insightful. 🙂


1 hour ago, CruisingWalter said: Wow, @Stockjock  thank you so very much for your kind words! I try to be fair when it comes to the food reviews because food is so subjective. I hate it when people just label an entire ship or an entire cruise line as "good" or "bad" because even when you don't have the best overall food experience, there are always nice surprises. And man that affogado in Venchi was a HUGE surprise! 🙂     And honestly one of my favorite food experiences on the ship was that second MDR dinner that wasn't the best food at all, but our server was hilarious by just being honest. Her reactions when I asked about various dishes was priceless. And she pretty much told us straight up what to expect from each of our dishes and she was right. It was a weak meal, but joking about it with her made it a fun experience.    We sailed MSC Seaside not long after that CDC report and honestly had no idea what to expect. We had a fun time accepting MSC for what it is and will be on her bigger sister the Seashore in December. Happy cruising everyone! 🙂  

Thank you Stockjock for posting Walters video and thank you Walter, loved the video.  Please let us know how the Seashore is on your Dec. cruise, we will be on it in January!

Many thanks @Stockjock  and @CruisingWalter  for the wonderful review I can mostly to subscribe myself.

The MSC food department should be as very well analysed as you did, effectively. It's worth to know the real product in face of its price tag. First of its all: Don't expect Michelin star rated food at baseline mainstream price tag. And now let us to face reality like it is: Don't expect an Italian business to be equal to an American one, like someone has suggested above.

Oh: And there is another concern. When coming here to Europe, you'll notice some differences in the way restaurants and EU cruise lines should to operate in relation to salt and sugar use. We have some recommendations and at least in the case of salt some in law limitations on what quantities are allowed to use. With time, us, Europeans do have become healthier in the way we make our food. You wouldn't find as sweet desserts on MSC like the ones they have on RCI, not only because Europeans want less sweet desserts, but because there are actually sugar limit recommendations at this side of the pond which by the most part are being followed. On RCI desserts your nearly unique flavor is sugar. On MSC sugar is a linking element that will to link the main ingredients you'd be able to flavor. Salt would perhaps to be even more noticeable now, once at this side of the pond we now have mandatory regulations for the restaurants to follow, and I believe there are none at the US.

I wouldn't compare some particular items. Those might to be just a question of taste, and that is as subjective as it can be. General quality sense, that is objective. On all travels I have made I had ones that have been hit or miss at same venues for the duration of those travels, even when we're talking about true EU 5* venues. I agree with both of you. MSC do have very decent food for the price tag, and according to the photos and videos of late, they seem to be rising up their game on that department. @Beamafar  is doing a live from the Musica in Greece where she entered a photo of a "fish & ships" dish that might to be the easiest thing to deliver... And that seems like obtained from a true EU 5* standards venue, it was not!... Congrats MSC on the good job being done!...

5 hours ago, CruisingWalter said: Wow, @Stockjock  thank you so very much for your kind words! I try to be fair when it comes to the food reviews because food is so subjective. I hate it when people just label an entire ship or an entire cruise line as "good" or "bad" because even when you don't have the best overall food experience, there are always nice surprises. And man that affogado in Venchi was a HUGE surprise! 🙂     And honestly one of my favorite food experiences on the ship was that second MDR dinner that wasn't the best food at all, but our server was hilarious by just being honest. Her reactions when I asked about various dishes was priceless. And she pretty much told us straight up what to expect from each of our dishes and she was right. It was a weak meal, but joking about it with her made it a fun experience.    We sailed MSC Seaside not long after that CDC report and honestly had no idea what to expect. We had a fun time accepting MSC for what it is and will be on her bigger sister the Seashore in December. Happy cruising everyone! 🙂  

I always appreciate honesty by the staff.  When they say, "Everything's good", you know they're either lying, or simply don't know. I've mentioned this before, but my first MSC cruise was on Divina in 2015 or 2016.  I read over and over again about how there was pretty much no food in the buffet other hotdogs and hamburgers, and they'd then go on to show pictures of them.  I got on Divina and that was 100% false.  There was so much food, but one had to take a walk to see what was available. I also think the MSC Specialty Dining packages are a good deal, relative to the competition.  For example, we did one last year for $70 per person for 3 specialty restaurants, which I thought was a great value. This NYE, we'll be on World Europa, and while the price went up a bit, we're getting 3 specialty restaurants for $100 each.  Throw in our free Diamond level specialty restaurant freebie, that's 4 specialty restaurants out of 7 nights for $200 total (not per person).  I'd like to see anyone beat that.  And for those who note that one specialty night is "free" due to Diamond status, I'd also note that achieving that status on MSC is much easier than achieving an upper tier status on other cruise lines. Anyway, good job on the video.  I found it to be well-done and objective.

5 hours ago, peder said: Critiques of food on MSC I think often come down to very simple things. Things like breakfast sausage on an MSC cruise are very far from American expectations. So when someone goes from a line like Carnival with a Guy Fieri quick service restaurant over to MSC, I can imagine it's a bit of a shock.

I am a fan of MSC's breakfasts.  I often order the MSC Express Breakfast, sometimes with Salmon/Lox on the side w/a Cappuccino.  Yum!  


Stem to Stern

6 hours ago, CruisingWalter said: And man that affogado in Venchi was a HUGE surprise!

Hey Walter.  Thanks for the video.  Some great tips.  I'll be sure not to miss out on that affogato.



14 hours ago, ridgecrest said: We did 3 Royal Caribbean cruises(Anthem 1, Oasis 2) also this year and were much more disappointed in the Windjammer than the MSC buffet.

we are definitely MDR folks, and we were pleasantly surprised by the Oasis MDR food this year, after the menu changed. There were only a couple of meh dishes. And the additional MDR entrees were free, unlike  MSC. Now if we find a dish not to be to our liking on Seascape, we'll have to pay to sample another entree. 😞

Now, the quality and variety at the Windjammer buffet and Park Cafe went downhill for sure.

I am looking forward to judging Seascape's MDR and buffet food in person in less than 30 days.


Thanks for the link.   Very good review.      

Happy cruising 🌊 🚢 🇺🇸 🌅

5 hours ago, Stockjock said: I am a fan of MSC's breakfasts.  I often order the MSC Express Breakfast, sometimes with Salmon/Lox on the side w/a Cappuccino.  Yum!

I like their breakfasts a lot too. The roasted tomatoes on top of an over easy egg? Yum. But the sausage we had in our western med circuit was far from the typical sausage you'd find stateside. Wasn't an issue for us, but I see how others would use that as an example for why MSC food is not up to par.

50+ Club

Enjoyable review @CruisingWalter . I had seen your channel come up in my feeds before, but now that I know it's from a helpful CC poster I'm subscribed 🙂  .

I do really appreciate how there were a number of items that were subpar, but you had a good attitude about it when stating the flaws. There are too many overly dramatic reactions to food that didn't meet someone's expectations and I discount those opinions immediately.

Thanks for sharing @Stockjock


I hope food has standardized/stabilized across the fleet since spring 2022--25 nights on Grandiosa that saw, granted, imo, negative food changes for each of the three cruises. While the "guys" on the buffet serving line seemed to be consistent (and happy and funny and as helpful as permitted--ALWAYS), the white uniforms hovering around the area changed several times as did the buffet. We have our preferences (mine, in particular, is hot food being served hot!) but don't see ourselves as picky eaters. We don't cruise to eat (in fact, we are so boring that we cruise simply because we love sailing-- preferring transatlantic cruises). However, we will be absolutely delighted if the fresh-prep egg station is, again, operational during our Seashore crossing coming up this week. 

The best thing MSC does is their Specialty Dining.



MSC's food is fine if you're not expecting great food.  Or hot food, to be honest.  Or food with any spice or real flavor.  It is what it is.

Even YC, while plated to look more appealing, is still bland and hit or miss.

I was shocked that a meal yesterday in YC saw gnocchi that was highly underdone.  I left 3/4 of the pasta on the plate.  I expected a little more from a line with Italian lineage.


On 10/21/2023 at 6:48 AM, peder said: Critiques of food on MSC I think often come down to very simple things. Things like breakfast sausage on an MSC cruise are very far from American expectations. So when someone goes from a line like Carnival with a Guy Fieri quick service restaurant over to MSC, I can imagine it's a bit of a shock.

Guy Fieri = salute to cholesterol 

On 10/31/2023 at 5:22 PM, joeyancho said: Guy Fieri = salute to cholesterol 

I can't stand Guy Fieri or his food aesthetic.  

But for many, he's a known commodity and they're impressed by his shtick.

27 minutes ago, benjaminnicholas said:   I can't stand Guy Fieri or his food aesthetic.     But for many, he's a known commodity and they're impressed by his shtick.

Yep.  He's no Jacques Pepin

1 minute ago, joeyancho said: Yep.  He's no Jacques Pepin

Hell, Fieri is no Burger King.

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Malta's Prime Minister aboard MSC World Europa while in Valletta to tour mega-ship

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MSC Cruises ‘ LNG-powered mega-ship MSC World Europa officially inaugurated the port of Valletta’s shore power facility in Malta this week – the first to be operational in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta’s Prime Minister Robert Abela toured the ship to mark the occasion.

Valletta’s local power grid supplied electricity for all MSC World Europa ’s operations while the ship was berthed to allow all engines to be switched off and eliminate the vessel’s direct emissions at the port to improve local air quality.

The Prime Minister was shown around the 22-deck ship by the Master of MSC World Europa , Captain Stefano Battinelli. PM Abela and other Maltese government officials were also given a presentation by Michele Francioni, MSC Cruises’ Chief Energy Transition Officer, on the line’s decarbonisation strategy to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 for its marine operations.

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The vessel is operating seven-night cruises throughout 2024 and 2025 between Malta, Spain, France and Italy.

Michele Francioni, Chief Energy Transition Officer, MSC Cruises , said, “Shore power is one very important element of our continued commitment towards decarbonisation with most of our fleet equipped to eliminate local emissions and improve local air quality when the ships are at berth in port, and we can switch off their engines as local shoreside electricity powers the operation.

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“It was a great honour to show the Prime Minister of Malta of how his country has led the way for shore power in the Mediterranean Sea, our major market for holidays at sea, and we look forward to many more ports in the region and throughout the world being equipped in the future so that the cruise and broader maritime sector can further reduce local emissions in ports.”

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The cruise line aims to add at least 15 new ports to its shore power plan between 2024 and 2026. Among them are Barcelona, Hamburg, Valencia, Marseille, Copenhagen, and five in Italy at Genoa, La Spezia, Civitavecchia, Naples and Trieste, plus at the company’s new cruise terminal in Miami that will become fully operational next year.

MSC Cruises has categorised its strategy to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 for its marine operations into three pillars of activity; ship and engine technology – which includes shore power connectivity – operational efficiency and renewable fuels.

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If you're ready for a break from holiday traditions and family gatherings at home, consider booking a Christmas cruise. What makes a better present than the chance to leave all the planning, cooking, cleaning and decorating behind – and celebrate the holidays in beautiful destinations in the U.S., the Caribbean or other countries around the world?

If you're dreaming of a white Christmas, you can book a festivity-filled river cruise along Europe's iconic waterways and bundle up in your winter gear to explore the Christmas markets in the snow. If you prefer sunshine and warm temperatures, celebrate the holidays in an exotic locale in the South Pacific Ocean, sailing crystal-clear turquoise waters and relaxing on white sand beaches surrounded by palm trees.

Whether you prefer to stay close to home or jet off for a bucket list adventure, one of these cruises may just be the perfect gift to celebrate your holidays in style.

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Put your name on the waiting list for November 2024 if you want to set sail on what Hallmark touts as the "jolliest vacation ever." The Hallmark Channel – known for its year-round holiday-themed programming with Christmas in July, Countdown to Christmas and Christmas Fridays – will host the first-ever Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise sailings in November 2024 from Miami to the Bahamas . Lucky fans of the television channel will travel with their favorite Hallmark stars on one of two four-night cruises on Norwegian Cruise Line 's Norwegian Gem during the 2024 holiday season.

Highlights of the Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise include photo opportunities and panels to meet the stars. Attend Christmas craft workshops or tastings with Hallmark's winemaker – the wines have names like Jingle (cabernet sauvignon) and Joy (sauvignon blanc). Guests can also look forward to "carol-oke" singalongs, cookie decorating, an ugly sweater contest and a world premiere viewing of the new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie "Countdown to Christmas."


A Christmas market stand at an AmaWaterways cruise destination.

Courtesy of AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways offers more than a dozen itineraries to visit the Christmas markets in 2024 and 2025 along the Rhine, Moselle, Main, Danube and Rhone rivers – and to see the holiday splendor of Europe's grand cities, such as Vienna , Budapest, Amsterdam and Prague. Travelers can stroll through snow-dusted medieval squares and fairytale markets. Enjoy the chalet-inspired stalls, thousands of colorful lights, festive decorations, ice skating rinks, whimsical handmade gifts, Christmas carolers, carousels and more.

The river cruise line's seven-night Iconic Christmas Markets itinerary sails from Nuremberg, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary , along the Danube. It features a visit to Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt – one of the world's oldest and most famous Christmas markets. Sip hot mulled wine or feuerzangenbowle (a red wine and rum punch) and sample savory specialties like Nuremberg bratwurst, flammkuchen (pizza) and kartoffelpuffer (fried potato pancakes). Be sure to save room for sweet delights like schaumkuss (also known as schokokuss), a chocolate-covered marshmallow, or lebkuchen, a traditional spiced cookie.

While on board the ship, guests can participate in festivities like tree-trimming, cookie decorating, caroling and "Shoes for St. Nick." This European tradition encourages passengers to leave their slippers outside their stateroom door before bed. In the morning, they wake up to slippers filled with tasty treats like children in Europe find on Saint Nicholas Day.

Celebrity Cruises

The Celebrity Infinity ship on the Celebrity Cruises' Canaries, Morocco, Spain Holiday itinerary.

Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Celebrate Christmas Day at sea in the South Pacific Ocean during Celebrity's 2024 New Zealand Holiday cruise on board Celebrity Edge. This round-trip 13-night itinerary embarks on Dec. 20, 2024, from Sydney . It includes seven ports of call and five sea days. After ringing in the new year sailing between the Bay of Islands, New Zealand and Sydney, guests will disembark the ship on Jan. 2, 2025.

If you'd prefer to travel to the Canary Islands to celebrate Christmas and usher in the new year on the Mediterranean Sea in 2025, then reserve a stateroom or suite for Celebrity Cruises ' Canaries, Morocco & Spain itinerary. The 12-night voyage sails round-trip from Barcelona , embarking a few days before Christmas 2025 on Celebrity Infinity. The festive voyage features eight ports of call, including island of Gibraltar; the Moroccan cities of Casablanca and Tangier; three destinations in the Canary Islands; and Malaga, Spain.

On the ships, guests can revel in the joyous spirit of the season with festive Christmas trees, traditional holiday meals created by a Michelin-starred chef, themed shows and pop-ups, carolers, gingerbread winter villages, and even a visit from Santa. The onboard bars serve up holiday-inspired cocktails along with other seasonal favorites, including spiked apple cider and classic mulled wine. On New Year's Eve, plan to join in the merriment with fellow cruisers during the big countdown bash.

Christmas carolers on the Azamara Onward cruise ship.

If you want to cross South Africa off your list of must-visit destinations , consider spending Christmas and New Year's Eve sailing round-trip from Cape Town on Azamara 's 15-night South Africa Intensive Voyage. The 2024 voyage departs Dec. 20 on Azamara Quest and includes stops in Port Elizabeth, home to one of the densest elephant populations in the world, and Richards Bay, which is teeming with exotic wildlife and stunning landscapes. For a once-in-lifetime experience, reserve a spot on the Safari 4X4 Hippo Cruise in the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park. This protected park is a white rhino sanctuary, home to South Africa's "big five": lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos and leopards.

If the Land Down Under is at the top of your list of places to visit, plan ahead for next year to spend the holidays aboard Azamara Pursuit in 2025. The line's 21-night Australia Intensive Voyage will set sail on Dec. 14, 2025, from Singapore . This extended sailing features 10 ports of call in three countries, with two overnight stays, before travelers disembark in Melbourne, Australia , on Jan. 4, 2026.

Guests on board the holiday cruises will be treated to Christmas performances, including singalongs and carols performed by the crew. There will be special menus in the restaurants, holiday-themed buffets, religious services and a tree-trimming party. Festive treats like hot chocolate, cookies and snacks are provided throughout the cruise. The New Year's Eve White Night party, where all the guests don their best white attire, will take place throughout the ships and on the pool deck with entertainment, music and light bites.

People stand on the front deck of a Viking Christmas cruise on the Rhine.

Courtesy of Viking

Viking's 12-day Christmas on the Main & Moselle cruise sails between Paris and Prague in 2024 and 2025. The adults-only sailing affords passengers 18 and older the opportunity to visit four European countries: France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic. In addition to browsing the chic boutiques in Paris and a variety of Christmas markets in Germany, you'll want to explore iconic landmarks like Reims Cathedral in France and the Luxembourg American Cemetery. Don't miss the famed wines produced in the regions, including Champagne, Moselle, riesling, Müller-Thurgau and gewürztraminer. In Cochem, Germany, you'll want to sample white mulled wine and regional delicacies produced from the red vineyard peach.

The holiday spirit continues on board the ships with Christmas-themed cooking demonstrations in addition to festive decorations with garland, lights and gingerbread houses. Guests will also taste regional cuisine, enjoy cultural performances on board the ship and ashore and learn about the history of the Christmas markets and local holiday traditions.

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Disney Cruise Line

Goofy, Mickey and Minny characters on a Disney Cruise Line Very Merrytime cruise.

Kent Phillips | Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line offers dozens of Christmas-themed cruises from November through December in 2024. Cruisers looking to celebrate the holidays with Disney's cast of characters can book a Very Merrytime cruise as short as a three-night sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida, to the Bahamas . For a weeklong getaway, consider the line's seven-night Eastern Caribbean voyage on board Disney Fantasy that sails round-trip from Port Canaveral. Ports of call on the itinerary include Tortola in the British Virgin Islands; St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands; and the cruise line's private island , Disney Castaway Cay.

On the first evening of every sailing, guests can gather around the 24-foot-tall Christmas tree for the tree lighting ceremony, a holiday singalong and the introduction of Santa Claus. Other festivities on Disney Cruise Line include the fun-filled Mickey and Minnie's Holiday Party, themed Very Merrytime activities for children of all ages, carol singers, and Christmas-inspired food and beverages. Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse will be sporting jolly new holiday attire during the special voyages.

Windstar Cruises

Christmas tree next to a winding staircase on a Windstar Cruises ship.

Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Celebrate the holidays with a bucket list getaway to the sun-drenched islands of Tahiti . On this voyage, you'll set sail a few days before Christmas 2024 aboard the 312-passenger, all-suite yacht Star Breeze for Windstar's seven-day Dreams of Tahiti cruise. The round-trip sailing from Papeete, Tahiti, includes stops in the islands of Moorea, Raiatea, Motu Mahea (Tahaa), Bora Bora and Huahine. In Bora Bora, guests will be treated to a special evening Windstar Destination Discovery Event with dinner under the stars and traditional Polynesian fire dancing.

For an extended European holiday in 2025, the line's Star Collector: Winter in Spain and the Rivieras cruise sails from Malaga, Spain, to Rome on Dec. 13 aboard the intimate Star Legend. The 14-day itinerary includes ports of call in Spain, France, Italy and Gibraltar. During the cruise, you can visit must-see attractions like Michelangelo's sculpture of David in Florence and explore the historic Roman theater ruins in Cartagena, Spain. Cruisegoers will also have a chance to sample wines from the famed appellations of Tuscany in Italy and Andalusia in Spain, and taste culinary specialties like bouillabaisse in France.

On board the ships, guests can join in the holiday spirit with festive Christmas trees and decorations as well as holiday-inspired cocktails and treats. Special programming for the voyages includes a Christmas movie, a gala tea, an interdenominational Christmas service and a Christmas Eve dinner. Christmas morning brings more celebrations throughout the day, with holiday meals, a Yuletide afternoon tea and a Christmas dinner followed by a variety show in the evening.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Gem on open water.

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Grab the swimsuit, flip-flops and sunglasses – and check the Panama Canal off your must-visit list – for a tropical holiday aboard Norwegian Cruise Line 's Norwegian Gem. The line's 11-day cruisetour begins Dec. 9, 2024, and includes three days to see the canal that some consider the "eighth wonder of the world" and visit vibrant Panama City. After embarking on Dec. 11, you'll transit the canal and then sail to ports in Costa Rica; Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico; and Norwegian's private island, Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, before disembarking in Miami on Dec. 20.

Plan ahead to Christmas 2025 by reserving accommodations on Norwegian's newest vessel – and the first in the Prima Plus class – Norwegian Aqua. The seven-day Caribbean round-trip voyage from Miami on the new ship (scheduled to launch in April 2025) will set sail on Dec. 21, 2025. The cruise includes tropical ports of call in the Dominican Republic, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and Great Stirrup Cay. For a special celebration, splurge on luxurious suite accommodations in The Haven. The ship-within-a-ship retreat features a private restaurant, a lounge, a sundeck, a concierge desk and 24-hour butler service.

Holiday-themed activities on Norwegian's vessels vary by itinerary and ship. Still, guests will find plenty of festive fun on board, including traditional holiday fare and holiday-inspired musical sets, trivia, and family and youth programming. Guests are invited to offer interdenominational services for fellow passengers during the sailing. You'll also find Hanukkah services listed in the Freestyle Daily Program.

Holland America Line

Christmas trees and other decor on a Holland America Line cruise ship.

Courtesy of Holland America Line

Celebrate the Christmas holidays in Hawaii during Holland America Line 's round-trip Circle Hawaii Holiday voyage from San Diego on the ship Zaandam, embarking on Dec. 18, 2024. Guests aboard this voyage will sail to Honolulu, Hilo and Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii as well as Kahului, Maui . You'll also get to enjoy scenic cruising at the Kilauea Volcano; visit Ensenada, Mexico; and join in the holiday festivities on the ship during relaxing days at sea.

If you've been dreaming of visiting far-flung destinations in Asia, such as Halong Bay, Vietnam, or Bangkok, Thailand – or seeing Komodo dragons in the wild in Indonesia – the 28-day Far East & Indonesian Holiday Collector itinerary will be an adventure of a lifetime. The voyage on board Westerdam embarks in Hong Kong on Dec. 7, 2025, with exotic ports of call in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. On Christmas Day, guests will visit the picturesque port town of Probolinggo on the coast of East Java in Indonesia. On New Year's Eve, the ship docks in Semarang, Indonesia; here, you can visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Borobudur, home to an impressive Buddhist temple site dating back to the eighth and ninth centuries.

Back on board the ships, holiday celebrations include a Christmas tree lighting, Santa's arrival, a midnight mass, a Christmas concert, special menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and a New Year's Eve Party and countdown. There are Hanukkah festivities with candle lightings and latkes served in the Lido. Guests will also enjoy viewing the holiday villages around the ship created by Holland America's culinary team.

Silversea Cruises

Penguins on an iceberg seen from a small excursion boat from the Silversea Cruises Silver Cloud cruise ship.

Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

For a life-changing experience and the merriest Christmas of all, spend the holiday with several species of waddling penguins, giant seals and majestic whales while visiting the ice-covered shores of the White Continent. The 10-day round-trip expedition from Puerto Williams, Chile, on Silversea 's Silver Cloud sets sail a week before Christmas in 2024 for the Antarctica Peninsula. Five days of excursions allow travelers on this Antarctica cruise to explore this surreal and magical part of the world. Weather permitting, guests will even take a Zodiac cruise with the expedition team in the South Shetland Islands the day after Christmas.

If you're planning ahead to 2025, consider a longer adventure where you'd fly the infamous Drake Passage one way from Puerto Williams (saving two days at sea) and land on King George Island in Antarctica. This 15-day expedition aboard Silver Cloud begins on Dec. 21, 2025, and features four days of excursions in Antarctica and three days in the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. You'll also spend three days in the Falkland Islands, where you'll have more chances for unforgettable wildlife encounters with black-browed albatrosses, fur seals, Commerson's dolphins, imperial cormorants, and adorable rockhopper and Magellanic penguins.

Festive touches on the ship include Christmas trees and lights, gingerbread houses, holiday arts and crafts, caroling, religious services, and musical performances by the crew and professional entertainers. Guests will also enjoy a traditional holiday dinner on Christmas Day.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Gwen Pratesi has been an avid cruiser since her early 20s. She has sailed to destinations around the globe on nearly every type of cruise ship built, including the newest megaships, luxury yachts, expedition vessels, and river ships in Europe and on the Mekong River. She used her extensive knowledge and experience with the cruise industry to write this article. Pratesi covers the travel and culinary industries for major publications, including U.S. News & World Report.

You might also be interested in:

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MSC Hosts Malta PM as World Europa Inaugurates Valletta Shore Power

  • July 10, 2024

Robert Abela

Malta’s Prime Minister Robert Abela toured MSC World Europa in Valletta on July 10 as the ship inaugurated the port’s shore power facility, the first operational in the Mediterranean.

According to a press release, Valletta’s local power grid supplied electricity for all MSC World Europa’s operations while the ship was berthed, allowing all engines to be switched off and eliminating the vessel’s direct emissions at the port to improve local air quality.

The Prime Minister and other Maltese government officials were shown around the 22-deck LNG-powered ship by Captain Stefano Battinelli. Michele Francioni, MSC Cruises’ Chief Energy Transition Officer, also presented the line’s decarbonization strategy to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 for its marine operations.

The ship is operating seven-night cruises throughout 2024 and 2025 between Malta, Spain, France, and Italy.

Michele Francioni, chief energy transition officer, MSC Cruises, said: “Shore power is one very important element of our continued commitment towards decarbonization with most of our fleet equipped to eliminate local emissions and improve local air quality when the ships are at berth in port, and we can switch off their engines as local shoreside electricity powers the operation.

“It was a great honor to show the Prime Minister of Malta of how his country has led the way for shore power in the Mediterranean Sea, our major market for holidays at sea, and we look forward to many more ports in the region and throughout the world being equipped in the future so that the cruise and broader maritime sector can further reduce local emissions in ports.”

By the end of 2024, MSC Cruises aims to equip 16 of its 22 vessels for shore power connections, targeting 220 connections across ports in China, Norway, Germany, the UK and Malta.

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