Thinking of a cruise that’s easy on the wallet? MSC Cruises might just be your answer. As a savvy traveler myself, I’ve seen them offer some of the most budget-friendly options out there. They’re not just about low costs, though; they often include perks like Wi-Fi and drink packages that add real value.

So, what’s their secret? How does MSC manage to keep their prices so competitive? In this article, we’ll explore the strategies behind MSC’s affordable rates and see if they really deliver a quality cruise experience without breaking the bank.

MSC cruise ship on the ocean
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How Cheap Are MSC Cruises Compared to Other Cruise Lines?

When it comes to affordability, MSC Cruises stands out in the cruising world. You’ll often find their prices significantly lower compared to many other cruise lines, sometimes by as much as 20-30%.

Let me break down the cruise prices for you in a way that’s easy to understand. Right now, MSC Cruise deals are quite a catch. Imagine, for just $199, you could be on a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise on the MSC Seaside, leaving from Port Canaveral. This includes a stop at their awesome private island, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.

Now, if you compare this to Carnival Magic’s $449 per person or Brilliance of the Seas’ $421 per person for similar weeklong Caribbean cruises, MSC is a real bargain!

But wait, there’s more. A week’s cruise on MSC Seascape, which is a pretty new ship, starting from Miami in July 2024, is just $749 per person. Now, let’s compare that with over $900 on Carnival Celebration or a whopping $2,207 on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas for the same duration in July, both leaving from Miami. It’s clear that MSC Cruises are way easier on the wallet than these others.

And talking about Princess Cruises, they’re kind of mid-range in price. While MSC Cruises are cheaper, it’s not because Princess is overpriced; it’s more about MSC Cruises being priced below the industry average. So, if you’re looking for a deal, MSC seems like the way to go!

Why Are MSC Cruises So Cheap Right Now?

Let’s dive into how MSC Cruises strikes that smart balance between keeping a modern fleet and keeping costs in check.

Global Reach

A key aspect of MSC’s strategy is its emphasis on international markets. By catering to a worldwide audience, MSC Cruises harnesses the potential of varied markets, from the sun-kissed Mediterranean to the bustling ports of Asia.

But how does this contribute to MSC Cruises being so affordable? It’s simple yet ingenious. MSC Cruises, by appealing to an international audience, manages to balance demand throughout various seasons and regions, maintaining a consistent influx of guests year-round.

This efficiency in operation translates to cost-effectiveness, a benefit that MSC graciously extends to its passengers in the form of affordable luxury.

Cycles of Renovation

different sets of paint brushes

Unlike many cruise lines that schedule refurbishments every 3 to 4 years, MSC Cruises often extends this cycle to 7 years or more.

Refurbishments, while essential for modernizing ships and enhancing the passenger experience, are a significant expense. They require both investment in upgrades and a loss of revenue while the ship is out of service.

MSC’s longer refurbishment cycles reduce these costs, allowing them to offer lower prices. However, it’s important to note that with less frequent refurbishments, MSC ships might not always feature the very latest amenities or designs compared to their competitors.

The Cost-Effectiveness of Aging Vessels

msc cruise ship docked beside a town

MSC operates a fleet that ranges from brand new, like the 2023-built MSC Euribia, to older models such as the MSC Armonia, launched in 2001. Older ships generally have lower operational costs – they’re often smaller, with fewer amenities, and the initial investment in their construction has been fully amortized. This economic advantage enables MSC to offer more affordable cruise options on these vessels.

Yet, it’s not just about cost savings. Older ships possess their unique charm, often providing a more intimate and nostalgic cruising experience. They are also more adaptable for port-intensive itineraries, capable of docking in locations inaccessible to larger, newer ships.

Lower Space to Guest Ratio

kids and adults wearing mask on a ship deck

You know, when I looked into MSC Cruises’ pricing strategy, I found something interesting about their space-to-passenger ratio. This ratio is like a measure of how much personal space you get on the ship, calculated by dividing the ship’s size by the number of passengers. MSC ships, it turns out, can fit more people relative to their size compared to other cruise lines.

Ship Cubic feet per passenger
Scarlet Lady 39
Azamara Quest 39
Celebrity Edge 37
Marella Discovery 36
Symphony of the Seas 36
Norwegian Encore 32
Disney Magic 34
Cunard Queen Elizabeth 36
Carnival Mardi Gras 29
P&O Cruises Iona 29
Sky Princess 32
MSC Virtuosa 29

What this means for someone like me who loves a good deal is that their clever use of space helps keep the prices down. It’s a smart move for maximizing their revenue, but it also makes their cruises more affordable for us. The flip side, though, is that with more people on board, it might feel a bit crowded.

So, while I’d be saving money, I might have to navigate through more people to enjoy the amenities. It’s all about balancing cost savings with the kind of cruise experience I’m looking for. If I’m okay with a lively, bustling vibe and keen on saving some bucks, then MSC’s approach might just be perfect for me.

Food and Drinks

fruits and tea on a wooden table

MSC Cruises stands out for its cost-effective dining options, deeply rooted in its Mediterranean heritage. MSC Cruises skillfully adapts its cuisine to the predominant nationalities on board, providing a tailored culinary experience.

This strategy not only enriches the dining experience but also aids in managing food costs efficiently. The focus on freshness, with onboard preparation of key dishes, further enhances quality without adding to the expense. This approach, balancing variety with portion control, contributes significantly to MSC’s ability to offer luxury at an affordable price.

When it comes to beverages, MSC Cruises operates similarly to other cruise lines, offering a variety of drink packages that match passenger preferences and budgets. Complimentary drinks are available, albeit limited to dining areas at specific times.

The drink packages, competitively priced, along with occasional special deals, ensure that passengers can enjoy their favorite beverages throughout the cruise without a hefty price tag. This strategic approach to dining and drinking not only maintains quality but also positions MSC Cruises as an affordable luxury option in the cruise industry.

Entertainment and Activities

people dancing under the strobe lights

Each ship has its theatre, and almost every night there’s a different show. What I find cool is how they mix languages in their performances, especially on European cruises, to cater to everyone. It’s like a mini United Nations but in a theatre!

Besides the theatre, there’s live music all over the ship. Picture walking from one venue to another and stumbling upon a jazz band or a lively trivia game. It adds a fun and energetic vibe to the whole experience.

Now, here’s a unique twist: MSC offers some paid shows. This isn’t super common in the cruise world, where entertainment is usually included in your ticket. On one of their recent cruises, they charged $16 for a special show, which even came with a complimentary cocktail.

While some might think that’s a bit pricey, especially if you’re traveling with family or already have a drinks package, I’ve heard from many passengers that these shows are worth every penny. They’re like a premium entertainment experience at sea. For me, it’s an interesting option to have – you can stick with the free stuff or splurge a little for something special.

For budget-conscious travelers, the additional cost of these shows might require careful consideration. With standard ticket prices applying to both adults and children and each show lasting around 30 minutes, the expense can add up, particularly for larger families.

However, the quality and exclusivity of these shows often justify the price, according to feedback from many guests. This approach to entertainment allows MSC to offer a range of experiences, from complimentary activities to more exclusive, paid events, catering to different preferences and budgets.


hotel service crew in uniform

MSC Cruises, with its distinct European roots, offers a unique approach to service that may contrast with what passengers accustomed to American cruise lines are used to. The service style of MSC is more formal and efficient, focusing on professionalism over personal interactions.

This approach, while efficient, might be perceived as less friendly than the more casual and interactive service typical of American cruise lines.

A notable aspect of MSC Cruises’ operational model is the lower crew-to-guest ratio. This ratio, an influential factor in the cruise experience, varies depending on the ship and occupancy levels.

Operating with fewer crew members helps reduce operational costs, contributing to the affordability of MSC Cruises. However, this also means that each crew member may have more responsibilities, potentially affecting the level of individual attention passengers receive.

While MSC Cruises generally provides commendable service, passengers need to understand that the experience might differ from that on more expensive cruises, where a higher crew-to-guest ratio often translates to more personalized attention.

Accommodation, Experience & Upgrades

zoomed in balconies of a cruise ship room

MSC Cruises adopts an innovative approach to accommodation and pricing through its ‘experiences’ concept, which categorizes cabins into three tiers: Bella, Fantastica, and Aurea. This system allows passengers to tailor their experience according to their preferences and budget, with each category offering distinct amenities at different price points. It’s a strategic approach that not only offers flexibility but also subtly encourages upgrades.

Bella – Budget-Friendly Basics

The Bella experience represents the most budget-friendly option, perfect for travelers who prioritize cost savings. Bella cabins are usually positioned in less desirable locations, like lower decks or nearer to the ship’s extremities. Despite these placements, these cabins ensure a comfortable and clean environment, focusing on the essentials. Bella is designed for passengers who value the overall cruise experience and destinations over specific cabin amenities or locations.

Fantastica – Enhanced Comfort and Convenience

Moving up, the Fantastica experience offers more than the basic Bella. These cabins are generally located in more favorable positions on the ship, like mid-ship or higher decks, and come with added amenities. Fantastica is an ideal choice for those willing to spend slightly more for enhanced comfort and convenience, striking a balance between affordability and a richer onboard experience.

Aurea – Premium Luxury

At the top tier is the Aurea experience, embodying luxury on MSC Cruises. Aurea cabins boast prime locations and are the most spacious, offering a suite of exclusive amenities and services. This includes perks like priority boarding, inclusive drink packages, and access to exclusive ship areas, catering to guests seeking a premium and personalized cruise experience.

Strategic Pricing and Upgrades

MSC’s pricing strategy begins with enticing potential customers with the attractively priced Bella cabins. This initial lower cost draws interest, setting the stage for opportunities to upgrade to Fantastica or Aurea experiences. Many passengers, captivated by the promise of added luxuries and better cabin locations, opt for these upgrades, ultimately increasing their overall spending. This approach cleverly balances the allure of affordability with the temptation of luxury, offering passengers a range of choices to customize their cruise experience to their desires and budget.

person calculating money and a notebook

What Are the Extra Costs for MSC Cruises?

Understanding the extra costs of MSC Cruises is key to managing your budget while enjoying the full spectrum of experiences offered. MSC, like most other cruise lines, has a variety of optional extras that can enhance the cruise experience but are not included in the base fare.

Onboard Activities and Entertainment

For adventure seekers and fun lovers, MSC offers exciting activities like the Zip Line on MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview for $10, or the thrill of the Formula Racer on ships like MSC Grandiosa and MSC Bellissima, also priced at $10. Those looking for indoor entertainment can enjoy the Arcade for $3 on all ships, or the immersive 4D Cinema experience available on several ships for $10. For a relaxed time, the Bowling alley awaits on ships like MSC Magnifica and MSC Divina for $45, or you can try the Flight Simulator on MSC Meraviglia for $15.

Dining and Beverage Options

Beyond the complimentary meals in the main dining room and buffet, MSC offers specialty dining and room service at an additional cost, including themed restaurants and special menu items. For drinks, while basic beverages are free during meal times, drink packages are available for purchase to cover alcoholic drinks, sodas, and specialty coffees.

Spa, Wellness, and Internet

Those seeking relaxation can indulge in spa and wellness services, like massages and facials, which are not included in the cruise fare. For connectivity, while there’s limited free internet, more comprehensive internet packages generally come at an extra cost.

Special Shows, Photos, and Excursions

MSC also charges for special shows and some onboard activities. Professional photos taken onboard are another added expense. While Ocean Cay beach excursions are an exception, most other port excursions usually incur additional costs.

Upselling and Pricing Strategy

It’s common for staff to promote specialty dining and drink packages. While these can add to the overall cruise expense, they also offer a more enhanced experience. This strategy of charging separately for various services allows MSC to maintain a lower base fare, aligning with its affordable luxury proposition.

Gratuity Payments

In my look into MSC Cruises’ extra costs, I discovered their unique approach to gratuities. It caters to regional practices. For instance, if you’re from the UK, where tipping isn’t customary, MSC includes gratuities in the cruise fare. This not only aligns with local habits but also makes MSC’s pricing seem more cost-effective compared to American lines where tips are added separately. However, for passengers from places with a tipping culture, gratuities are an additional charge, of up to $14 per person per day. This strategy shows MSC’s commitment to meeting the diverse expectations of its global clientele.

Senior Citizen couple looking at a map

Are MSC Cruises Worth It?

When I think about whether MSC Cruises are worth it, it really boils down to personal preferences in a cruise experience. MSC caught my eye for its blend of affordable luxury, Mediterranean style, and international flavor. They have different cabin ‘experiences’ to suit various budgets, which can be a good choice for cruise first timers, and the balance between quality and cost in their onboard activities and dining is pretty impressive.

One thing to note is their service style and extra costs for certain perks, which might be different from other cruise lines. Also, their global approach to gratuities adds convenience for passengers from diverse regions. If you’re after an affordable cruise with a European touch, MSC stands out.

Now, if you’re like me and sometimes want to splurge a bit, check out the MSC Yacht Club. It’s like a VIP area within the ship with exclusive access to fine dining, stunning views, swanky suites, and a dedicated concierge. It’s pricier than a standard MSC cruise, but for that extra luxury, it might just be worth it.


Ultimately, MSC Cruises offers a unique value proposition in the cruise industry. For those who appreciate its blend of affordability, Mediterranean charm, and diverse offerings, an MSC cruise can be an enriching and enjoyable experience.

It’s about finding the right balance between what you desire in a cruise and what MSC uniquely provides, making it a worthy consideration for your next vacation on the seas.


Is MSC considered a luxury cruise line?

MSC Cruises skillfully combines elements of luxury with more affordable options, making it a hybrid as well as falling under the luxury category. It offers luxurious experiences, especially in its Yacht Club and Aurea packages, but is generally more accessible price-wise than traditional luxury cruise lines.

What is the basic salary in MSC Cruises?

The basic salary for MSC Cruises’ staff varies by experience, position, and location. For example, a cruise ship captain typically earns a higher salary, reflecting the significant responsibilities and expertise required for the role. Entry-level roles are competitively paid within the cruise industry standard, ranging from $25,551 to $ 31,695 with potential for growth and additional benefits based on role and tenure.

What kind of people cruise on MSC?

MSC Cruises attracts a diverse international audience, from young couples, those on their honeymoon, and families to older travelers. Its appeal crosses budget and luxury segments, drawing those who enjoy its Mediterranean heritage and a range of onboard experiences.

Is MSC a party cruise?

While MSC Cruises offers lively entertainment and activities, it is not typically classified as a ‘party cruise‘. It caters to a broad audience with varied interests, and themed parties such as flower parties, elegant nights, and white parties, provide entertainment options that suit families, couples, and solo travelers seeking a balanced cruise experience.