A relative newcomer to the American market, MSC Cruises is a European cruise line with plenty of Mediterranean flairs. It has impressed the US family cruise market for its "kids sail free" policy, which lets children age 11 and under traveling in their parents' staterooms to cruise at no charge.
The ambiance and clientele are both international, though the European influence is felt less on the MSC Divina, the sole MSC ship sailing from the US. Public spaces are glitzy and glamorous. Unsurprisingly, the line offers the best Mediterranean fare, gelato, and Italian pastries at sea.
Families with kids 3 and up
Beyond the "kids sail free" policy, MSC Cruises also offers supervised programs for children from babies to teens, broken down into five age groups: MSC Baby Time for babies and toddlers ages 10 to 35 months; Mini Club Sailors for young children ages 3 to 6; Junior Club Pirates for school-age kids ages 7 to 11; Y-Team for early teens ages 12 to 14; and MSC Generation Teen Club for older kids ages 15 to 17.
MSC is partnering with LEGO to bring families the LEGO Experience at sea, including LEGO-designed playrooms and entertainment options offered across its fleet. Kids and adults can compete in LEGO-themed competitions and games on a designated day during a sailing. Children who participate in the LEGO Experience Day receive an official LEGO Junior Master Builder diploma. In addition, all guests will have the chance to meet and greet Sailor Walkabout, the LEGO Sailor Mascot, who is available for photo ops. All the LEGO features are available free of charge to guests.
For kids ages 3 to 11, Divina also offers nice evening program called Happy Dinners. Kids can eat dinner while their parents enjoy a cocktail and their starters. Once kids finish with their meals, camp counselors will escort them to the kids' clubs for evening activities. On some nights, if they would like, kids can eat with their peers and the counselors in a special section of the buffet area.
In 2016, MSC introduced the DOREBRO sports program for children and teens ages 3 to 17. The program offers an exciting variety of sports and active games for all levels, broken down into two daily sessions, with activities designed for the different age groups Another new program is the “DOREMI Chef by Carlo Cracco,” a cooking class designed in collaboration with the two-starred Michelin chef Carlo Cracco. Led by MSC Cruises chefs and the onboard MSC Cruises mascot DOREMI, children aged 3 to 11 will learn, among other recipes, how to make homemade pasta from scratch while receiving plenty of cooking hints and tips from the globally renowned chef. Upon completion of the course, each child will receive an official mini-chef certificate signed by Carlo Cracco.
There is no babysitting onboard. Infants and toddlers ages 10 to 35 months can attend designated MSC Baby Time activity sessions but parents must remain present. Thanks to a partnership with Chicco, families with babies and toddlers can borrow a range of Chicco products—including strollers, bottle warmers, and baby backpacks—free of charge on six ships of the expanding MSC Cruises fleet. The baby equipment is available for onboard time and for shore excursions in order to make cruising even simpler for families with young children.
The MSC Divina in the Fantasia class is the only ship dedicated to North America, sailing full time out of Miami to Caribbean ports of call. Unlike other MSC ships, the Divina attracts a North American clientele and English is the predominant language heard onboard.
Shipboard fun includes an infinity pool, sports bar, basketball court, bowling alley, and a top deck long, curvy waterslide. Some activities (Formula 1 simulations, for example) come with an upcharge.
Evening entertainment ranges from musical productions to karaoke and comedy acts. MSC recently announced that it is partnering with Cirque de Soleil for entertainment on its forthcoming Meraviglia class of ships.
Along with the "kids sail free" policy, MSC offers an ongoing stream of deals, particularly for the summer low season. Older kids and teens ages 12 to 17 also get a significant discount.
Good to know
MSC sailings tend to attract a mix of passengers hailing from every walk of life and, depending on when you sail, there may be more seniors or few children onboard. You’ll find more families with young children on board during school breaks and holiday weeks.
Four new ships are slated to launch between 2017 and 2019. The first, the 4,140-passenger MSC Seaside, is slated to debut in December 2017, sailing out of Miami. The ship will feature family staterooms and suites as well as a top-deck aqua park featuring a handful of water slides: a 367-foot tube water slide that extends over the ocean, racing water slides, a slide boarding tube, an inner tube slide and a family slide. In addition, the aqua park will feature a splash pad and water playground, including a wet ropes course.