For years, when you thought about MSC Cruises, you probably thought of Europe. The Switzerland-based cruise line, which started out as a shipping company, covers the Mediterranean like few others do. These days, though, you’re more likely to encounter MSC when you’re planning your next trip to the Caribbean. The line made its first play for the North American market a few years ago when they brought MSC Divina to Miami. Known for temptingly low fares, the line's newest and largest ship, MSC Seaside, now sails to the Caribbean from Miami, too.
What We Love
The MSC Yacht Club: This haven for upper-tier suite categories feels truly exclusive, with a private pool and hot tubs, a lounge serving snacks throughout the day, and private dining room for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s a true escape from the crowds on one of the biggest ships in the world.
The Swarovski Staircases: Sure, they’re a little over-the-top, but the crowds waiting to take pictures on them prove just how much sparkles appeal to everyone.
The Venchi Shops: The line has long had a partnership with Italian chocolatier Venchi, and there are two boutiques onboard: a gelato shop located near the South Beach Pool, and a full chocolate shop (which also has gelato and drinks, such as coffee and rich hot chocolate). As you approach, the smell of chocolate hits you and you know you’re in for something special.
Formula 1 Racing Simulator: Climb into a racecar (harder than it sounds!) and steer your way around a few laps of the course on the screen while the car moves around and vibrates. Just don’t try to do it in heels, or after a few drinks.
5-D Theater: Sure, at less than four minutes long these “movies” (really giant, competitive video games) are short, but you won’t hear anyone say they want their $10 back. Each seat has a gun (and a seatbelt, which you’ll want to fasten) and while the narratives are limited, the joy of shooting aliens, werewolves, or zombies is real.
Best Known For
Asian Market Grill: Hawaiian chef Roy Yamaguchi debuts his first restaurant at sea in a gorgeous space with three parts: a sushi bar, a teppanyaki grill, and an Asian fusion restaurant with attractive dishes such as watermelon designed to look like ahi. Yamaguchi himself designed the kitchen, and even picked out the colors and the music.
The Longest Zipline at Sea: The line is long for this one, but it’ll make you feel brave, and it’s also free. Also, the ride itself is relatively slow, so you get to take in the views terror-free.
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Who It's Best For
Families: We love this ship as an option for families with kids of multiple ages. MSC Seaside does an impressive job catering to little ones, tweens, and teens with a jungle-themed water park that has elements for each – a ropes course, dump buckets, racing slides, and a boarding slide with a video game element. There are also several pools, bowling lanes, buffets laden with kid-friendly foods (chicken fingers, pizza, French fries, and burgers), and an arcade. Plus, the kids’ clubs host tons of programming, from competitive games for families to films and teen-only silent disco nights.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Cabins Are Straightforward: While the design of the public spaces is elaborate, from the flashy casino to the sparkling atrium, the cabins themselves are spare, and come without a lot of bells and whistles. Even the inside cabins in the MSC Yacht Club are simple rather than luxe, and the “beach condo-style” cabins feel standard, albeit with truly excellent verandahs.
You’ll Be Tempted to Upgrade Your Meals: Dining room dinners are fine, if forgettable, and the buffets have a lot of choices — including amazing house-made pastas. But the specialty restaurants (which start at about $30 per person, and include rich brunches as well as dinners) are a big step up and worth the fees.
Sherri Eisenberg is a New York City-based writer and editor. She is the former editorial director of ShermansCruise.