I’ve cruised with MSC 5 times and in this post, I will share with you my top tips. These tips will help you to save money, maximise your time onboard and even get a few freebies.
This article is based on my experience cruising on the MSC Meraviglia, Virtuosa, Preziosa, Seaview and World Europa.
I took my first cruise with MSC in 2012, my most recent was last month.
Match Your Loyalty Status For Freebies!
If you have a loyalty status with another cruise line or some hotels, MSC will match it. This means that you’ll be bumped up their loyalty program and will receive perks as if you had cruised with MSC before.
I matched my Norwegian Cruise Line status before my first MSC cruise and ever since I have received perks like free speciality meals and chocolates.
It’s well worth doing and isn’t difficult, all you have to do is fill in a form.
To see the full list of which programs MSC match and how to apply, check out this post: MSC Status Match – What Is it And is it Worth Doing? A Step-by-Step Guide
Book Theatre Shows as Soon As Possible
If the ship that you are sailing on requires theatre shows to be booked, book them on embarkation day on the mobile app or touch screens around the ship.
Not all MSC ships require theatre shows to be booked.
Most shows are shown a couple of days each but even still on the big ships, there isn’t capacity for everybody to go to see every show.
On my last cruise on the MSC World Europa, there was one show that I wasn’t able to see because it was sold out.
If you don’t manage to get a booking you can still show up to the theatre shows but you will be let in after everybody who has booked, this means that you might not get a very good seat and if you are in a big group you wouldn’t be able to sit together.
You are always able to cancel the theatre shows if you decide later that you don’t want to go.
Have an Open Mind About The Food – Try What MSC Is Good At!
I do feel that MSC get some unfair complaints about their food. That said the quality has improved a lot since my first MSC cruise in 2012 so perhaps some of the reviews I’ve seen are out of date.
You can’t go on an MSC cruise and expect the food to be the same as an American and British cruise line, personally I quite like that. It is different, but to me that doesn’t mean worse.
MSC are a Mediterranean cruise line and the things that they are best at are pasta, pizza and CHEESE. They also serve a lot of seafood and they make their own pizzas every day and mozzarella too.
To see the food that I’ve eaten on past MSC cruises, including menus, check out this post: Everything I Ate on my MSC Cruise (Photos and Menus) – Food Review
On every ship, there will be at least a buffet and a main dining room where your food is included and on some ships there are lots of other options like grab-and-go burgers, poolside food etc.
Be Prepared to Be Asked About Speciality Dining and Drinks Packages!
MSC are a budget cruise line and because of that they sell their cruises cheaply and rely on onboard spend. This means that you will be asked a lot if you want to buy speciality dining packages or drinks packages.
Just a polite no thank you will do but you may have to say it multiple times per day.
On most other cruise lines they would only do this on embarkation day, but on MSC cruises it does happen every day and can get annoying.
The same happens with the photographers and you’ll be asked if you want photos a lot, again just politely say no and keep walking.
I do feel bad for the crew, but I really don’t want any photos taken!
Learn to Ignore Extra Safety Drills (Yes Really)
MSC are unlike other cruise lines in that they have guests that embark and disembark most days, what this means is that there are likely to be multiple safety drills.
On some cruises, for example, those out of the US this doesn’t happen, but in most of Europe, it does.
The safety drill, or muster drill is a legal requirement for everybody boarding a cruise but do be aware that you only have to do it once. If you hear announcements about a drill later in your cruise that is for other guests who have embarked.
To learn what happens at a safety drill, check out this post: What is a Muster Drill on a Cruise? Everything You Need to Know (REVIEW of Traditional and Virtual Muster Drills)
The same goes for disembarkation day, you’ll see luggage in the corridors on many days of your cruise.
If The Dates Don’t Work, Move It!
If you’re looking to book an MSC cruise but can’t get a certain day off work, or the flights to a place are expensive consider moving it a day forward or back.
You’ll embark in a different port but it doesn’t matter on an MSC cruise.
My personal favourite port to board MSC cruises at in Europe is Barcelona as it’s not far from the airport and I like staying in Barcelona pre-cruise.
MSC cruises don’t usually include flights or transfers as standard but if you book through a travel agent they’ll be able to sort this out for you, the agents I recommend can be contacted here.
Book Your Excursions Independently To Save Money
When I visited Genoa on my last cruise MSC were selling a trip to the Aquarium for €50 per person. The aquarium is within walking distance so I booked my tickets myself and they were around €30 each.
I don’t enjoy cruise line excursions anyway because you are grouped together with 20 or 30 other people.
If we had visited the aquarium on the excursion we would have had a set amount of time in there but because we went by ourselves we could leave whenever we wanted.
I usually use websites like Viator to find and book independent excursions:
The risk of booking your own excursions is that you do have to get yourself back to the ship on time but I have been on excursions where guests have wandered off and got lost.
Even booking with the cruise line isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get back to the ship on time.
Just make sure that you leave yourself lots of time, I’m always onboard an hour or two before sail away.
Download MSC’s App
If you are on an MSC cruise ship that uses the MSC for me the app I’d recommend downloading it from your phone’s app store as soon as possible.
It is free to download and use, all you need is an internet connection to download it.
In the app, you will find the daily schedule and lots of other useful things like the days menus. Most menus are viewable through QR codes and having the app just makes everything easier.
MSC’s app also has a free chat feature so you can chat to the other people in your cruise group.
Check Your Onboard Spend as You Go
When you spend money on a cruise it’ll be added to what is called your onboard account. You can check this on the cruise lines app and it is well worth keeping an eye on this as you cruise.
It will stop you from having any nasty surprises at the end of the trip and if there are any problems, for example, if you had been charged for something by mistake, you can sort that out while onboard.
I’ve been on cruises in the past where I’ve been charged for drinks despite having a drinks package and because I noticed I was able to get it fixed quickly.
Bring a White Dress/White Outfit
On most MSC cruises there will be a white night at some point. The white dress code isn’t enforced at all but it is good fun and a good percentage of the passengers do take part.
I have seen other themes on MSC cruises like 60s 70 and 80s-themed parties.
It’s a little more tricky to pack for these, and they don’t always happen but if you have space in your suitcase, why not bring something along?
Change Your Dining Time if You Don’t Like it
MSC mostly have fixed dining where you will be assigned either early or late. If you book the cheapest ticket called a Bella cruise fare you have the lowest priority when it comes to dining times.
They’ll assign the people who paid more first then you’ll get the time you asked for if it is left.
That said, I have been given late dining on multiple MSC cruises and have always been able to change it to early dining without any problem.
If this is the case just head to the main dining room on the first day and there will usually be someone there who can change it.
Normally, they will change it from the next day, so we would eat in the buffet or another restaurant on the first day.
MSC do have some flexible dining for guests paying the highest cruise fare.
I changed my dining time on this cruise:
Don’t Expect Other Guests to Understand You
If you are taking a cruise with MSC there is a high chance that the other guests will speak Italian, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, you name it.
English is the main language onboard and if you speak English only that is no problem, all of the crew speak English and all of the menus/paperwork is in English, that said that doesn’t mean that other guests will understand English.
It is amazing how much you can communicate without language though, it’s easy to tell if somebody is saying ‘thank you’ or ‘after you’ just with gestures, if in doubt just smile.
I like hearing everybody speaking other languages, it reminds me that I am far from home.
Make Sure You Get Your Loyalty Perks
As mentioned earlier I matched my Norwegian status to MSC and as a result, I get a free speciality meal. Nobody ever tells me that when I cruise though!
Make sure if you do have a loyalty status with MSC that you get what you are due, sometimes the gifts/freebies will arrive throughout the cruise so don’t be alarmed if they aren’t there on the first day but for things like the free speciality meal you will need to go there and book it yourself.
On my last cruise, I just walked up to one of the restaurants and said:
The waitress was lovely, she said yes, explained what we could have on the menu and that the bill would be €0.
At the end of the meal, I had to sign to say that I agreed to the charge which does always amuse me. I love paying that price for a speciality meal!
Avoid The Casino if You Don’t Like Smoke
On MSC cruise ships there is usually an area in the casino where guests can smoke and most ships also have a smoking bar or other areas where guests will be smoking.
I’m sure it’s something to do with the demographic of the passengers but MSC do have more smoking areas than most British or American cruise lines. I don’t mind it, but know many who do.
On some ships, there may be a lounge that is only accessible through the casino.
Even If It’s Cold – Go Swimming!
Don’t be put off if the temperature outside is cool, MSC heat their outside swimming pools.
The worst part is getting undressed and walking to the pool but I always find it nice when I am in there, then of course you do have to get back out.
MSC have lifeguards stationed at all of their pools when they are open and I’ve always found they are much quieter if it is cold, on my last MSC cruise I had a pool to myself and my own personal lifeguard!
The pools are usual open into the evenings and this can be a good time for a swim as most people head off for dinner.
Get Travel Insurance With Missed Port Cover
On my last MSC cruise, we missed a port because of bad weather and I didn’t mind because I had travel insurance with missed port cover. This means I get a cash lump sum for every port I miss.
Cruise-specific travel insurance is essential for any cruise, if you just listen to one tip please make it this one. It isn’t worth the risk.
Assign Your Credit Card and Check in Pre-Cruise
MSC’s website has an online check-in function which makes embarkation much faster. On my last cruise, I went from entering the terminal to boarding the ship in 8 minutes, all thanks to the fact that I had checked in online.
During the check-in process, you provide information about your passport and can add a credit card to your account which your onboard spend will be charged to.
You are also able to assign a card on the ship at one of the machines and you can load physical cash onto your card if you’d prefer that.
Print Your Luggage Tags at Home
When checking in you’ll also be given your luggage tags, printing these saves time.
If you can’t it isn’t a problem but the first thing you’ll have to do when you get to the cruise port is queue up to get your tags, attach them and hand them to the right person.
If you’re on a big MSC cruise ship there can be 5000+ people boarding so these lines can get long!
I always print my tags at home and I put them in these plastic luggage label holders, I find that stops them from breaking which means that they make it to my cabin.
In the past, before I used these I had one suitcase get so wet all the ink melted on the tag which wasn’t ideal!
Prebook Drinks Packages if You Want One
When you take a cruise there are two options, you can either pay as you go with the drinks like you would a bar on land or you can buy a drinks package.
The drinks package means you pay a certain amount per day and then are allowed drinks up to a certain cost.
It’s always cheaper to prebook the package than to buy it on the ship.
On my last cruise, the alcohol package pre-cruise was the same price as the non-alcoholic onboard!
Before You Go
I recently took a cruise on one of the older ships the MSC Preziosa, to find out how that was check out this article next:
Wondering how MSC compare to the big American cruise lines? Check out this post: