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MSC Cruises Review

U.S. News Travel
  • Overall Rating: 3.0stars 3.2 3.2
  • Expert Rating:3.5stars 3.3
  • Traveler Rating:3.0stars 3.0
    • Couples: 3.0
    • Families w/ young children: 2.9
    • Families w/ older children: 3.1
    • Singles/Friends: 3.1
    • Groups: 2.7
  • Health Rating:
    3.5
    3.5

MSC Cruises Overview

How it Ranks: MSC has been ranked based on an expert evaluation of the line's level of luxury, as well as an assessment of user reviews and health ratings. MSC Cruises appears on the following ranking lists:

MSC Cruises sets itself apart from other European cruise lines with its refined onboard experience and eclectic selection of facilities, including adults-only and kids-only pools and 4-D cinemas. The line's 12 ships cater mainly to a European clientele, as many MSC ships sail throughout the Mediterranean. However, American cruisers will benefit from MSC's 2015 voyages to closer destinations like the Caribbean, South America and Northern Europe with voyages lasting between three and 21 nights. MSC's ships carry anywhere from 2,199 to 4,363 passengers at full capacity, with approximately one crew member for every three passengers. Although MSC's ships differ in size, the whole fleet receives praise from previous passengers for its sophisticated ambiance and the value of its itineraries — the cruise fare covers ship activities, gratuities for the staff and most meals (with the exception of specialty restaurants). Food options vary aboard each ship, though most MSC cruises' restaurants feature Italian and globally inspired cuisine. Meanwhile, MSC entertainment includes evening concerts to parties and contests, while shore excursions cover everything from tours of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, to 4x4 Jeep adventures in Jamaica.

Pros & Cons

  • Wide array of European itineraries to choose from
  • Children ages 11 and younger can sail for free
  • Cruise fare covers many onboard amenities
  • Beverages, including soft drinks and mineral water, are not included in the cruise fare
  • Shore excursions cost extra
  • Dining options are fairly limited

On Board

MSC Cruises sailing throughout the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas cater mainly to European travelers, while Caribbean itineraries attract an American clientele. While most cruises are geared toward retirees, don't be surprised if you encounter families during summer and holiday breaks from school (especially if you're sailing the Caribbean). Couples — particularly honeymooners — also cruise with MSC to take advantage of activities and packages designed specifically for pairs.

More about the onboard experience»

On Shore

MSC Cruises offers 2,000 shore excursions that you can book on board or in advance through the MSC website (booking periods vary by itinerary). Passengers can arrange excursions like a sightseeing tour of Dublin's cobbled streets, a vineyard tour and wine tasting in Montevideo, Uruguay, or horseback riding ...

More about the on shore experience»

Before You Book

  • Children must be six months or older at the time of departure to cruise with MSC. Children 11 years or younger may sail for free as long as they stay in the same stateroom as a parent or a responsible adult. However, the "Kids Sail Free" promotion is only available to travelers with Early Booking Fares. "Kids Sail Free" is based on availability and may not be combined with any other discounts; even if your fare does not qualify, you'll see there is always a discount for children ages 11 and under.
  • Passengers under the age of 21 must be accompanied by — and share the same or an adjoining stateroom as — a parent or adult over the age of 21.
  • Women who are or will be 24 weeks pregnant by the time the cruise ends are not allowed to sail with MSC.
  • To receive a full refund, cancellation requests must be made in writing and received at least 60 days prior to your scheduled embarkation date. If you cancel 46 to 75 days before your scheduled departure date, you will forfeit the deposit. If you cancel 16 to 45 days before your scheduled sailing date, you may receive a 50 percent refund of the price of your cruise, excluding taxes. If you miss this deadline and cancel your cruise within 15 days of your sailing date, you will receive no refund.
  • If your cruise is canceled before the voyage begins for technical or weather-related reasons, you will be refunded the full fare. 

Before You Board

  • Plan to arrive at the ship two hours prior to your scheduled departure time. Check-in closes 90 minutes before embarkation for all cruises leaving from American ports, and one hour before embarkation for all ships leaving other ports (your scheduled departure time is indicated on your cruise ticket).
  • Online check-in can be completed 24 hours prior to your embarkation date at www.mscwebcheckin.com.
  • If you wish to check in online and you have a group reservation, you will need to check in together. You may also choose to check in together at the loading dock.
  • All luggage should be labeled with the passenger's last name, ship name and cabin number. You are permitted to bring as many bags on board as you wish, as long as you are able to store everything in your cabin. MSC encourages passengers to limit luggage to two checked suitcases per person weighing no more than 50 pounds in order to make the journey to your departure port easier.
  • While you cruise international waters, MSC requires you to carry all necessary travel documents, such as passports, required visas, immigration documents and vaccination certificates where necessary (e.g., yellow fever vaccinations are required for certain destinations in South America and Africa). For a list of routine vaccines, visit the World Health Organization website.
  • Any guest younger than 21 may not consume alcoholic beverages or participate in onboard gambling.
  • Women who are or will be 23 weeks pregnant by the time the cruise ends must produce a medical certificate affirming fitness for travel.
  • Passengers with disabilities who require special equipment or accommodation must inform MSC Cruises in writing no later than 72 hours before departure.
  • You can book shore excursions in advance on MSC's website; when you'll be able to pre-book your shore excursions varies by itinerary.

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Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship's Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 22 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship's Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by Cruiseline.com.