This week, I have to give a tip of the hat to MSC Cruises, which has just announced three new itineraries from New York for the spectacular new MSC Meraviglia (mer-a-veel-eah) when she arrives on the shores of North America in late 2019.
If you haven’t already heard about MSC Cruises, that’s going to change over the next few years. The world’s largest privately owned cruise line already dominates in both Europe and South America, and has been slowly making inroads in North America (specifically the Caribbean) for the last decade. Now, it is unleashing its newest and most high-tech cruise ships on North American guests at an unprecedented pace.
The line already has a fleet of 14 superbly designed megaships, with another two on the way. These range from the smaller, more intimate 1,984-guest sisters, MSC Lirca and MSC Opera; to the high-tech 4,488-guest MSC Meraviglia and her newest fleetmate, MSC Seaside. The latter, MSC’s most innovative ship to date, is making her way across the Atlantic as I write this, bound for her new home in Miami.
That MSC is now adding MSC Meraviglia to North American departures — to join MSC Seaside and MSC Divina — for the winter of 2019-20 is no secret, but her new departures from New York are definitely worth taking note of.
“New York has been a market that MSC Cruises has been exploring for a number of years,” said Rick Sasso, chairman of MSC Cruises USA. “We are thrilled that for the first time in MSC Cruises history, we are now able to offer sailings from this important region and meet the expectations of both our travel agent partners and guests.”
These three new itineraries — all of which go on sale Jan. 2 — explore Canada & New England and the east coast of the Americas, and are great options for those looking for a big-ship experience with an international flair. MSC has a strong following in Europe, so expect the on-board crowd to hail from many different countries.
First up are two 10-night Canada & New England voyages that depart roundtrip from New York aboard MSC Meraviglia.
The first voyage, departing Oct. 8, 2019, will visit Canadian ports exclusively, calling on Sydney, N.S.; Corner Brook, N.L.; Charlottetown, P.E.I.; along with an overnight call on Quebec City.
MSC Meraviglia’s second North American voyage, on Oct. 18, 2019, offers a mix of the Canadian and American Maritimes, stopping at Bar Harbor, Maine; Saint John, N.B.; Halifax and Sydney, N.S.; Portland, Maine; and Boston.
Finally, cruisers can depart on Oct. 28, 2019 for a 13-night exploration of the eastern seaboard, sailing from New York to Miami via the Caribbean. On this cruise, MSC Meraviglia will stop at Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Fort de France, Martinique; Bridgetown, Barbados; Saint George, Grenada; Willemstad, Curaçao; and Oranjestad, Aruba, before arriving in Miami.
From there, she will begin her inaugural season of voyages to the Caribbean, joining fleetmates MSC Divina and MSC Seaside in offering a multitude of voyages to the Eastern and Western Caribbean.
Departing Sundays, MSC Meraviglia will primarily sail week-long cruises to the Western Caribbean on two separate itineraries. The first of these will include calls on Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Mexico and the Bahamas; while the second itinerary will feature ports in Mexico, Honduras, Belize and the Bahamas.
If you look online, MSC gets a rough ride in the Caribbean from cruisers who expect the line to be exactly like Carnival or Princess and are surprised to find daily programs offered in a multitude of languages and cuisine that caters to a more international audience. The line makes no secret of its European heritage, and nor should it.
My own experience aboard MSC in the Caribbean a few seasons ago was one filled with good food and great European niceties, like made-on-board gelato and some of the best coffee at sea. Entertainment tends to be more visual than other lines (a nod to the different languages spoken by guests) but was very high quality.
With MSC bringing bigger-and-better ships to the shores of North America, it’s like having a little slice of Europe in the Caribbean.