Are you looking for the best cruise itineraries offered by MSC Cruises? You have plenty of options.
The world’s third-biggest cruise line by passenger capacity offers voyages in almost every corner of the world, from Asia and Europe to the Caribbean and South America.
MSC Cruises currently has 22 cruise ships in operation, more than all but a handful of other major cruise lines.
That allows it to deploy vessels on all the classic cruise itineraries in the Caribbean and Europe while still having ships left over for more exotic routes.
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That said, MSC Cruises has a distinct focus on Europe, where it’s the biggest cruise operator. In a typical summer, the Switzerland-based line deploys the vast majority of its ships in the Mediterranean or in Northern Europe, and many of the best MSC Cruises itineraries are in Europe.
Even in the winter, when many lines move all their vessels out of Europe to warmer locales, MSC Cruises will keep several ships in the Mediterranean and often at least one vessel in Northern Europe.
During summers, MSC Cruises usually only has a couple of ships posted outside of Europe — typically in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
During winters, the line adds more ships to the Caribbean and the Bahamas and also sends a significant number to South America, South Africa and the Persian Gulf. The line is the largest cruise operator by capacity in all three of the latter destinations.
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In addition, MSC Cruises typically offers an around-the-world cruise in the winter on a single ship.
Here are the five best destinations you can visit on an MSC Cruises voyage.
MSC Cruises got its start offering cruises in Europe, mostly to a European crowd, and Europe remains its biggest focus. The line offers a wide range of itineraries across every corner of the continent, from the Mediterranean to the far reaches of Northern Europe.
Among the line’s signature routings are seven-night sailings in the Western Mediterranean that offer the chance to see such iconic destinations as Barcelona, Rome and Cannes, France, in a single cruise. Or, you can sign up for a Mediterranean cruise focusing on the Greek islands and Turkey.
In Northern Europe, MSC Cruises will take you to such famed Baltic cities as Helsinki, Stockholm and Tallinn, Estonia, in a single sailing. Until recently, such trips also often included a stop in St. Petersburg, Russia, but calls at St. Petersburg are on hold indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine.
Multiple itineraries that zero in on the Norwegian fjords are also available.
In all, the line traditionally deploys around a dozen vessels to the Mediterranean each year during summers and five more to Northern Europe. Voyages range from four to 10 nights in length.
Among the longest sailings that MSC Cruises offers in Europe are 10-night trips out of Marseille, France, that include visits to Malaga, Cadiz, Alicante and Port Mahon, Spain (located on the island of Menorca in the Balearic Islands); Lisbon; and Olbia (on the island of Sardinia) and Genoa, Italy.
In Northern Europe, MSC Cruises ships mostly sail out of Southampton, England; Copenhagen; and Kiel and Hamburg in Germany.
In the Mediterranean, the line’s main hubs are 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.
Note that 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 also typically makes announcements in all five of the aforementioned languages on these trips. This can result in extraordinarily long announcements at times, which can be a distraction to some cruisers.
The Caribbean and the Bahamas
MSC Cruises isn’t the biggest player in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. But its footprint in the region has grown notably in recent years as it has expanded its fleet at a rapid pace and pursued a strategy of wooing more Americans.
In 2017, the line only had a single vessel based in North America for sailings to the Caribbean and Bahamas. But that number has grown to three in recent years and, as of this winter, is jumping to five with the addition of two more ships (MSC Magnifica and MSC Divina) sailing out of U.S. ports.
The five vessels — MSC Magnifica, MSC Divina, MSC Seashore, MSC Seascape and MSC Meraviglia — will mostly operate seven-night sailings in the region that either focus on the Eastern Caribbean or Western Caribbean.
Eastern Caribbean itineraries at MSC Cruises typically call at Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Nassau, the Bahamas; and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, the line’s private island in the Bahamas.
Western Caribbean itineraries at MSC Cruises typically call at Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico; and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.
Specifically, for the coming winter of 2023-24, the five MSC Cruises ships based in North America will sail from:
- MSC Seascape: Miami
- MSC Divina: Miami
- MSC Magnifica: Miami
- MSC Seashore: Port Canaveral
- MSC Meraviglia: New York City
In addition, the line offers cruises to the Caribbean from the Caribbean islands of Barbados, Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The relatively recent opening of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve was a major development for the line — its first private island in North America.
Offering beaches, water sports, food outlets and bars, it’s a major stop for a large number of MSC Cruises sailings to the Caribbean and Bahamas.
Note that MSC Cruises’ North America-based ships are marketed heavily to Americans, and the line has tailored some of the features and activities on the vessels that sail in the region to a North American crowd.
Notably, on MSC Cruises sailings out of U.S. ports, only safety announcements are made in five languages. Other announcements are in English only.
MSC Cruises in 2023 significantly expanded its footprint in North America with its first regular sailings from the East Coast of the U.S. to Bermuda.
The line is now operating six-night voyages to the destination each summer out of New York City on one of its newest, biggest ships — the 4,500-passenger MSC Meraviglia. The vessel began sailing from New York City in April 2023, becoming the first MSC Cruises ship to sail year-round from the city.
The new Bermuda sailings begin at New York City’s Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, where MSC Meraviglia is based, and feature three full days docked at Bermuda’s King’s Wharf. They take place seasonally during August and September.
Like MSC Cruises’ Caribbean and Bahamas sailings, the Bermuda voyages cater to a North American crowd, particularly travelers in the Northeast who can reach the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal by car.
Eastern Canada and New England
Also new as of 2023 are MSC Cruises’ first sailings in four years from New York City to Eastern Canada and New England.
Operated by MSC Meraviglia, these sailings range from 10- to 16-night trips timed to coincide with the fall leaf-peeping season in the region, with departures in September and October. The ship also offers some Eastern Canada and New England sailings in April and May.
On the shorter end of the itineraries are 10-night voyages that bring stops in Newport, Rhode Island; Boston; Portland, Maine; St. John’s, Newfoundland; Sydney, Nova Scotia; and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
An 11-night itinerary adds in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the above schedule, and a 16-night itinerary adds in a three-day stay in Bermuda.
The latter itinerary is actually a combination sailing that pairs the 10-night Eastern Canada and New England sailing mentioned above with a six-night Bermuda sailing.
Like MSC Cruises’ new Bermuda sailings out of New York City’s Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, the new Eastern Canada and New England voyages are aimed primarily at North American travelers.
Eastern Canada and New England is a relatively new destination for MSC Cruises. The line offered a brief season of voyages to the region out of New York City in 2019.
The Persian Gulf
In recent years, MSC Cruises has become a major player in the growing market for winter sailings in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. The trips include stops at such destinations as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, as well as nearby Oman.
Drawing Europeans and some Americans in addition to local residents of the region, the voyages offer a warm-weather escape from colder climates in the winter. They also provide a chance to explore local cultural sites such as the Muttrah Souk and Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman.
In a typical year, MSC Cruises deploys two ships to the region during the winter for a range of three- to nine-night voyages out of Dubai.
Among the line’s most common itineraries in the region are seven-night sailings out of Dubai that stop in Abu Dhabi and Sir Bani Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates; and Muscat and Khasab, Oman.
In addition, the line offers seven-night sailings out of Dubai during the winter with stops in Abu Dhabi and Sir Bani Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates; Damman, Saudi Arabia; and Doha, Qatar.
Note that for the winter of 2023-24, the line has canceled many of its sailings in the Middle East as a safety precaution due to the outbreak of war between Israeli and Hamas forces in the region.
MSC Cruises has one of the biggest fleets of oceangoing cruise ships in the world, and that allows it to offer a wide range of itineraries.
If you’re looking for the best MSC Cruises itinerary, you’ll have no shortage of choices.
The line is perhaps best known for its Europe sailings — at certain times of the year, it deploys almost all its ships to the region. But you’ll also find a solid array of MSC Cruises itineraries in the Caribbean and Bahamas, and the line is diversifying its offerings in North America to include new voyages out of New York City to Bermuda and New England.
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