The ultimate guide to MSC Cruises ships and itineraries

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.

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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 in recent years 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.

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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.

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 24,000 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 has unveiled some of the world’s biggest cruise ships over the past five years, including the 18-deck-high MSC Meraviglia. It’s tied as the world’s 10th-largest cruise ship. MSC CRUISES

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. MSC CRUISES

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 recently opened its first private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, in the Bahamas. AP IMAGES/MSC CRUISES

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 has two ships based in Florida for summer sailings to the Caribbean and the Bahamas, plus one ship sailing out of New York City this summer.

During winter, MSC Cruises typically will add more ships to the Caribbean and the Bahamas. (For winter 2023, it expects to have five 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, it’ll have one ship in South Africa and three in the Middle East.

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?

Family-friendly attractions such as waterslides are common on bigger MSC Cruises ships. MSC CRUISES

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

Among the top suites on MSC Cruises ships are MSC Yacht Club Deluxe Suites, such as the one shown here on MSC Grandiosa. MSC CRUISES

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.

A standard balcony cabin on one of the newest MSC Cruises ships, MSC Meraviglia. MSC CRUISES

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 the line’s 3-year-old MSC Grandiosa, for instance, span two levels and offer around 635 square feet of interior space, plus another 237 square feet of outdoor balcony space.

The exclusive MSC Yacht Club area on MSC Bellissima has a spacious lounge with stunning views. MSC CRUISES

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 Yacht Club areas also have private pools. MSC CRUISES

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

One of the main dining rooms on MSC Bellissima. MSC CRUISES

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

A theater show on an MSC Cruises ship. MSC CRUISES

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

Ultimate Texas Hold ’em is among the table games you can play at Le Grand Casino on MSC Grandiosa. MSC CRUISES

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 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.

Full-size Formula One racing simulators can be found on a number of MSC Cruises ships. MSC CRUISES

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

A standout feature on MSC Grandiosa is the waterslide-filled Wild Forest Aquapark. MSC CRUISES

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.

A suspended-in-the-sky ropes course called Himalayan Bridge is one of the thrills on MSC Meraviglia. MSC CRUISES

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 partnered with the Lego Group for the Mini Club children’s zone on some of its ships. MSC CRUISES

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 $14.50 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 have a drinks package, you’ll pay a 15% service charge when you purchase the package, but there will be no service charge for individual drinks. 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.

Remember, 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.

Dress code

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 five 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. A chart shows how point-earning works:

You’ll earn points on MSC Cruises sailings based on the length of the trip and the type of “experience” you book. SCREENSHOT FROM MSCCRUISEUSA.COM

Every person in your stateroom will earn points for the cruise based on the chart above. You can also earn points with onboard spending and any prebookings you made before embarkation. You’ll earn 100 points for every $150 in prepaid expenses 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 January 2024 start at just $189 per person, not including taxes and fees of $110. That works out to just $74.75 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 three 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.

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.

With the even pricier “Aurea” experience, you’ll get an unlimited drinks package, a complimentary massage in the ship’s spa, complimentary access to the spa’s thermal area, priority boarding and other perks.

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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