I have been on three cruises with MSC Cruise Line. I love the value for money that you get on MSC Cruises. If you’re considering your first cruise with MSC you may be wondering what is included in the cruise fare.
Do MSC Cruises Include Meals?
Breakfast lunch and dinner are all included on MSC Cruises. All ships have at least two free dining options, the main dining room and buffet. There are ‘speciality dining’ options which cost extra but these aren’t compulsory.
It is possible to cruise with MSC and not spend a penny extra on food. During this post, we explore the options that are complimentary and those that cost extra so you can decide if you’d like to spend extra money on food during your cruise.
(At the end of the post I include a tip that could get you a free meal in a speciality restaurant!)
All MSC Cruise ships have a buffet. EVERYTHING IN THE BUFFET IS FREE AND YOU CAN EAT AS MUCH AS YOU’D LIKE! The buffets on MSC ships are usually open from early in the morning until late at night. The food is usually varied and includes lots of Mediterranean cuisines.
We are confident that you will find something to suit your tastes and mood at The Buffet. After all, there are 13 different areas to discover – from the Kids’ Corner to the Pasta Station – allowing you to find exactly what you fancy. Open for 20 hours a day, The Buffet is a great casual option for everyone, from families to couples who don’t want to tie themselves down to mealtimes. – MSC Source.
What I love about MSC buffets is that they very rarely close. During the times between breakfast/lunch and lunch/dinner, they will change over the food on offer but the food doesn’t really ever stop. The buffet is a great option if you want to grab a quick meal or have a snack between meals. I cruised as a child and LOVED going to the buffet when my parents went to the main dining room. The amount of choice and flexibility is one of my favourite things about cruising.
Most MSC buffets are made up of the following sections:
- Meat Carvery
- Kids Area
- Take Away Station
- Dessert Corner
- Pasta Station
- Daily Specials
- Wellness Corner
- Ethnic Corner
- Special Diets & Menus
- Mediterranean Dining
- International Dining
What Drinks Are Available In The Buffet?
Water, tea and coffee are available at all times when the buffet is open. This is brilliant! I took a Costa cruise recently where the tea/coffee was only available between 4-5pm! If you have cruised with Costa and are wondering about the differences between Costa and MSC check out my post about the differences between the two: MSC and Costa Cruises: 7 Differences.
Juices are also available, without charge, at breakfast.
Some ships have bars within the buffet where you can order a drink. If not you are still able to order a drink from the bar by ordering with one of the waiters. A lot of the newer ships have buttons which you press to order a drink.
Buffet hint: If you’re in the buffet for breakfast make sure you find the bread rolls below with little bits of sugar on them. They’re dreamy!
Main Dining Room
The main dining room is open for breakfast, sometimes for lunch and always for dinner. All meals here are all included in your cruise fare. MSC Cruises offer both fixed and flexible dining although fixed dining is more common.
You are free to choose if you want to eat dinner in the main dining room or not, if you don’t want to eat there you just don’t show up. You don’t have to let anybody know.
There is one early and one late seating per evening, it is possible to request either early, or late dining prior to your cruise. It is not guaranteed that you will get the seating you request although I have never known anybody who didn’t get the seating that they wanted. If you get onboard and find out that you have a dining time that doesn’t suit you, you are often able to change this onboard.
If you are cruising with MSC Cruises and have fixed dining your table number will be printed on your cruise card. When heading to the restaurant for dinner you will be shown to the table and this is your table for dinner each night.
If you have ‘my choice’ flexible dining, available with higher cabin categories, you are able to arrive at the restaurant anytime during dinner hours. You will then be seated as if you were in a restaurant on land, easy peasy!
Dress codes to apply to this restaurant and all others onboard. To learn more about MSC’s dress codes, and to find out why I think it’s one of the best, check out this post:
Is There Any More Complimentary Food On MSC Cruises?
On most MSC ships there is some type of outside pool grill which serves food by the pool. These are always complimentary and will usually serve things like burgers/hot dogs. This may be the same food from the buffet but it is often different. This area of the ship may only be open at certain times and may be dependant on the weather.
A lot of MSC ships also have a pizzeria outside where you can grab a slice of pizza. MSC has a LOT of pizza onboard their ships so if you’re a pizza fan you’ll be very happy!
The last MSC cruise that I took was in January and it was far too cold to spend very long outside. The cruise was on the MSC Meraviglia and although it was freezing it didn’t stop us from having a go on the watersides!
In a number of the bars, you’ll find nuts and nibbles to munch on. On the MSC Meraviglia, the sky lounge also offers tapas style snacks (and a few crisps) which don’t cost extra.
What About Room Service?
Room service is available on MSC Cruises but there is a charge per item. Most items are pretty reasonably priced at a few euros each but I personally don’t like paying for room service. The walk to the buffet does me good!
Speciality Dining On MSC Cruises
There are a number of different pay extra for options on MSC Cruises. On some of the older ships, there may only be one or two speciality restaurant but the newer ships do have more. In speciality restaurants, you are charged similarly to how you would be on land. Items on the menu will usually have a price by them and the balance is charged to your onboard account which is paid at the end of the cruise.
Not all of the below restaurants are available on all ships. There are more options available but these are the ones that I personally know about. No point me making up stuff eh? For the full list, check out MSC’s website here.
Butchers Cut is my favourite MSC speciality restaurant. This may be because it’s the only one that I’ve been to, but it’s so good I’ve been three times!
Butchers cut is a steakhouse which has the most AMAZING giant melted cookies for dessert. It is amazing. They have a set menu for a certain price or you are able to pay as you eat as you would in a restaurant on land.
Eataly is an Italian restaurant which you will actually find in Italy. I have been to Eataly but only on land, I actually had a meal in Eataly in Genoa. It was okay, I would describe Eataly as the Nando’s of Italy, I hope you’ll understand if you’re from the UK! (I do love Nandos).
Kaito Teppanyaki Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Due to my hatred of Sushi, I’ve never tried out this one. However, I think this restaurant is about more than just food. If you have dinner here you’ll be treated to a food show, your food will be thrown up and sliced in mid-air. It’s very fun to watch and quite a performance. I personally prefer to watch it from outside the restaurant as they have big glass windows, but I imagine it’s a great experience if you like Sushi!
Cirque Du Solei
Cirque Du Solei is a performance that is performed on MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima. It is a circus act that sees performers flying through the air above the heads of the audience. I’ve seen the show twice and I’m so glad that I did. The show does cost extra but in my opinion, it is well worth the money. You can either see the show with a cocktail or with a meal beforehand. I do know people who loved the meal but honestly, I would just stick to the show and cocktail. The menu for the dinner is fixed and I like to have a choice when I eat, plus there is lots of other free food around the ship.
On the MSC Meraviglia, we visited the onboard pub and decided to pay extra for ‘fish and chips’. It was only a few euros and it was really good. I’ve definitely recommended this. You’ll often find normal bars on MSC cruises have pay for extra food items. This is also the case in the sports bar.
When you are on your MSC cruise there will be points when staff members will try and sell you speciality dining and drinks packages. I’ve found that this has got worse lately so it is important to be firm. There is nothing wrong with not spending extra money on a cruise, you’ve already paid for food!
Would You Like a Speciality Meal For Free?
You may be entitled to a free meal in a speciality restaurant, and more perks, if you have a loyalty status with another cruise line.
MSC Status Match is a program that allows you to ‘match’ a loyalty status that you have gained on another cruise line (and some hotel brands) with MSC. When you cruise with MSC you will be given the perks that the equivalent loyalty programme on MSC would provide.
A black loyalty card allows you to have a meal for free in a speciality restaurant. The card entitles you to a meal for two although I believe you can only use it once per cabin. I have the black status and took Jono (who doesn’t have any status with MSC), both of our meals were free. When eating in a speciality restaurant you may have to eat from a special menu as we did in butchers cut (tasting menu). The value of the meal was €39!
To learn how to match your status, and why you should, check out this post I wrote about how I did just that. MSC Status Match – The free way to get 5% off MSC Cruises.
Want to learn how to cruise well on a budget? Start here: How to Cruise For Less
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