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

July 16, 2022
10 min read
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Are you considering a getaway with MSC Cruises? You have plenty of options when it comes to picking a cruise itinerary.

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.

By the end of this year, MSC Cruises will have 21 cruise ships in operation, more than all but a handful of other major cruise lines.

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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.

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 the summers, MSC Cruises usually only has a couple of ships posted outside of Europe — typically in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

During the winter, 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.

In addition, MSC Cruises typically offers an around-the-world cruise in the winter on a single ship.

Here are the five best destinations that you can visit on an MSC Cruises voyage.

Europe

MSC Grandiosa sails in Europe. (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

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, Spain; Rome; and Cannes, France, in a single cruise. Or, you can sign up for a Mediterranean cruise that focuses on the Greek islands and Turkey.

In Northern Europe, MSC Cruises will usually take you to such famed Baltic cities as Stockholm; Tallinn, Estonia; and St. Petersburg, Russia, in a single sailing.

Note that stops in St. Petersburg are on hold this year due to the war in Ukraine, which has prompted lines to cancel calls in Russia. MSC Cruises still has calls in St. Petersburg on the schedule for 2023, but whether they take place will likely depend on the outcome of the war.

Multiple itineraries that zero in on the Norwegian fjords also are 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, Alcante and Port Mahon, Spain (located on the island of Menorca in the Balearic Islands); Lisbon, Portugal; and Olbia (on the island of Sardinia) and Genoa, Italy.

In Northern Europe, MSC Cruises ships mostly sail out of Southampton, England; Copenhagen, Denmark; 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.

Related: The ultimate guide to MSC Cruises ships and itineraries

The Caribbean and the Bahamas

MSC Meraviglia docked at Ocean Cay in the Bahamas. (Photo Courtesy of MSC Cruises)

MSC Cruises isn't the biggest player in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. However, its footprint in the region has grown notably in recent years as it expands its fleet at a rapid pace and pursues 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. By later this year, it'll have three ships sailing out of U.S. ports to the regions, with that number jumping to four ships by the summer of 2023.

The vessels — MSC Seaside, MSC Seascape, MSC Divina 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 recently opened 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.

In North America, MSC Cruises ships have historically sailed to the Caribbean and the Bahamas out of PortMiami. However, the line is in the midst of adding Port Canaveral and New York City as home ports, too.

In addition, the line offers cruises from the Caribbean islands of Barbados, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

The 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.

Related: The 5 types of MSC Cruises ships, explained

Bermuda

MSC Meraviglia will sail to Bermuda starting in 2023. (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

MSC Cruises is in the midst of expanding its footprint in North America with its first regular sailings from the East Coast of the U.S. to Bermuda.

Starting in 2023, the line will offer several six-night voyages to the destination each year out of New York City on one of its newest, biggest ships — the 4,500-passenger MSC Meraviglia. In fact, the ship will become the first MSC Cruises ship to sail year-round out of New York City.

The new Bermuda sailings will begin at New York City's Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, where MSC Meraviglia will be based, and feature three full days docked at Bermuda's King's Wharf. They'll take place seasonally during August and September.

Like MSC Cruises' Caribbean and Bahamas sailings, the Bermuda voyages will 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

MSC Cruises offers sailings to New England from New York City. (Photo Courtesy of MSC Cruises for The Points Guy)

Also coming in 2023 will be MSC Cruises' first sailings from New York City to Eastern Canada and New England in four years.

Operated by MSC Meraviglia, these sailings will extend to 10- to 16-night trips timed to coincide with the leaf-peeping season in the region, with departures in September and October.

On the shorter end of the itineraries will be 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 America travelers.

Eastern Canada and New England is a relatively new destination for MSC Cruises. The line offered just a very brief season of voyages to the region out of New York City in 2019.

Related: MSC Cruises' MSC Voyagers Club loyalty program: Everything you need to know

The Persian Gulf

MSC Virtuosa visiting Dubai. (Photo Courtesy of MSC Cruises for The Points Guy)

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 will offer seven-night sailings out of Dubai for the coming winter with stops in Abu Dhabi and Sir Bani Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates; Damman, Saudi Arabia; and Doha, Qatar.

Bottom line

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 thinking of an MSC Cruises cruise, 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 it's diversifying its offerings in North America to include new voyages out of New York City to Bermuda and New England.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by Conrad Schutt
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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