What to know before your first cruise with MSC

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

With Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Cruises bursting into the American market over the last few years, more and more Americans are hearing about the company for the first time. The grand ships make a statement and are breathtaking docked in port but there are definitely some things you’ll want to know before you board an MSC ship for the first time.

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1. They’re Italian owned

The now massive cruise line company didn’t even start in the vacation business. Cargo is the main revenue source for MSC even to this day. Owned by only one family, MSC is the largest, privately owned cruise line in the world. The Aponte family built up from one small container vessel to eventual domination of the seas. The small family aspect is still prevalent everywhere around the ship.

Along with this, the Italian influence is everywhere. This sends off a completely different experience than what you may be used to living in an American market. Things sometimes are processed a bit slower. Communication is different, espresso breaks in the middle of the workday are not just a stereotype and humor may be more blunt and dry than what is common across the States.

2. You will be surrounded by different cultures

Sometimes we get so adjusted to our own habits it can be quite jarring when someone doesn’t abide by them. Some countries queue quite nicely while others don’t abide by the line-not because they think they’re more important, but they just don’t even consider why a line would be formed. Some nationalities are louder; some have smaller space bubbles and some drink more.

There will be things that others do that annoy you, but that is just life. Try to go in with an open mind and brush off things that might at first bother you. Then at the end of the day, you’ll realize you’re all there to dance, drink, enjoy the music, explore the ports, and relax. You might even make new friends and actually learn something cool and new about another culture.


First Time Cruising? Check out the 7 Things You don't want to forget to pack on your first cruise and download my FREE cruise packing checklist to make sure you don't leave anything at home!


3. Not everyone will speak your language

With all these cultures on board, you will run into quite a handful of people, guests, and crewmembers that don’t speak English as a first language. Let’s start, before you get scared, by clarifying that by speaking English, you will never be left in the dark. All crewmembers have to speak English in order to obtain the job; of course, this is not a requirement for people looking to vacation.

Cruise Ship Sunset
The beautiful Divina docked in Freeport, Bahamas.

Maybe you’ll get into an elevator and be surprised to hear Italian, German and French and then by the time you get to the lounge the table next to you is singing along to the Spanish music.

Chances are that a lot of these people actually can speak English as a second language and they’re not trying to be rude by not speaking YOUR mother tongue.


Take a deep breath, realize how cool it actually is to be surrounded by so many different languages. Maybe even practice some basic Spanish or Italian before you get on board to really make a fellow guest or crewmember smile. you may be surprised how easily you can make friends over a smile and a couple laughs despite language barriers.


(Check out How To Learn Any Language you Want for some basic advice on getting started with a new language!)

4. The safety drill and announcements will take longer

MSC ships, whether in the Mediterranean or not, will be filled with guests from all different parts of the world. This again means guests speaking all different languages. Though English is still the major language on board, there will be social hosts and announcements to help cater to the other official languages on board.

Before you moan and complain that it takes longer to get through the safety drill, think about how you’d feel if you couldn’t speak a certain language.

Every one ignores that you have no idea what is going on. No one addresses your questions even though this drill is the most important safety thing you’ll do all week. Solely because you come from 80 percent of the world who doesn’t speak English as a first language? That in no way makes you less important, does it?

MSC is an Italian company after all if it weren’t for English coming on board, we would have never been able to have this wonderful European cruise experience in the first place.


5. You won’t get your drinks instantly

European service is much different than American service. Note how I didn’t say worse, but different. Sometimes you’ll wait longer than what you may be used to to get service. Then all of a sudden your server or bartender appears and you have a wonderful conversation with them about their home life, their family, how they like working on the ship. You’re not the only person with those questions.

Before you butt in and say maybe they shouldn’t be talking about their personal life while they’re working…their work life is their personal life. While you’re vacationing for just a week, they live on board to make sure you have that amazing vacation you’ve been dreaming of. The next day, they come back and know your name and your drink preference-DESPITE building relationships with thousands of other new passengers that same week.

The service isn’t created instant in order to turn tables. You’re not at McDonald's; you’re on a high-end cruise line that typically leans towards quality before rushed and sloppy work. I promise the more kind you are with the servers and bartenders, the more likely it’ll be for them to throw you a free drink or try to make that complicated American cocktail you just love that they’ve never even heard of in their country somewhere on the other side of the world.

6. Your food may be lukewarm

MSC prides itself at staying true to their Italian heritage especially when it comes to food. (I mean what is the first thing you think of when you think of Italy?) Although they still try to cater to some American styles of eating-especially in the buffet-what you will find in the restaurants is Italian and Mediterranean authentic food all the way through.

Cruise Ship Dinner
Filet Mignon? Why not!

Pasta is al dente. Soup is never made boiling hot. Desserts consist of coffee and pastries instead of triple, chocolate, stuffed explosion brownies. Remember that in every culture food is cooked, served and consumed differently. With MSC you will never have to doubt if your food is authentically Italian or not. It will be.


Check Out My Tik Tok for more Cruise Ship Dining Hacks :)

The pizza is absolutely incredible, but you may not find pepperoni. You’ll find margarita, herb or many other more popular Italian styles. Don’t expect your food to taste “American” because you’re not on an American cruise line anymore. How cool is it that you have the chance to discover so many cultural foods off AND ON the ship.

7. Theatre shows have their own style

How funny is a joke once it needs to be repeated again? Not as funny as the first time for sure. Now, how funny is a joke once it needs to be told five more times? Absolutely tiresome and frankly, probably a bit annoying.

Let’s acknowledge once more how many languages you will be surrounded by. Imagine constantly translating everything you say into five other languages. Although an impressive feat you will see throughout some activities, for example, bingo since money is on the line, you will not see this on the main stage.

You may get lucky and have some types of stand-up shows for your specific language, but the main theaters and shows for the evening will accommodate something every language speaker can appreciate-music, acrobatics, and dance.

With this being said, the main shows in the theatre are absolutely incredible. The theatre dancers, singers, and special talent specialize in all different kinds of styles and shows. You will not leave an MSC ship without hearing an Italian or French love song…without seeing a beautiful Caribbean salsa…without the feeling of togetherness after the final goodbyes from the cast in the theatre.


8. The ships are jaw-droppingly gorgeous

The allure of the ships themselves is magnificent. From their sleek outside figures to the very purposefully, decorated lounges inside, MSC ships carry their own style and modern presence. The breathtaking Swarovski staircases in the atrium onboard the bigger ships act as a perfect backdrop during formal nights. Each lounge has its own personality and every ship go-er will find one that suits them best.

MSC Armonia
The baby of the fleet, Armonia, still has it's own charm.

9. There will be a lot of dancing

You will rarely find a quiet lounge as music and dancing is such a big part of the culture onboard MSC. You will find quickly that there are parties suited to every type of musical preference all hosted by an energetic and lively entertainment team! If you cruise in the Caribbean, expect a lot of island vibes and sexy bachata lessons. If you cruise in the Mediterranean you might be happy to join in on the flamenco classes.

MSC Armonia
Jamaican Night with the animation team!

No matter what season you decide to cruise through, you’ll find the perfect nights and themes just for you. Gatsby, ’70s and '80s, Country, Mediterranean…the ability for the musicians onboard to cater to so many different styles of music is impressive, to say the least.


5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming an Entertainer Onboard a Cruise Ship


10. They are a big family

If you invest even just a slight bit with the crew or interact with them in any way at all, you will make genuine relationships. Your server, entertainers, musicians, chefs…well they all left their blood families at home for far longer than you can imagine. Compliment them and love on them when they deserve it. Pay attention to them and watch how well they take care of you. Watch how quickly and giddily they accept you into THEIR ship family. Yes, you are on vacation, but this is their home.


I promise, it’s such an international and loving family and you will be privileged to be a part of it.

MSC Divina
Full dance floor on MSC Divina

11. You will have one of the most memorable vacations of your life

If you have an open mind to cultural differences around you and genuinely are there to have a good time-heck I’d even bargain even if you weren’t there for a good time, you will have one of the best vacations of your life aboard an MSC ship.


Your taste buds will dance right along with your feet late into the nights. When your vacation comes to an end you’ll be sad to leave not only the glorious ship but also the beautiful people on board that make the ship come to life.

Have you ever cruised with MSC? What ship did you vacation on and what did you think?


If you enjoyed this article, want to learn more about MSC, or cruising and travel in general, make sure to subscribe to get all the latest news to your inbox for free! Follow me on Instagram or head to my "About" page and send me a message if you have any cruise or travel related questions! I love to share more about my Life Onboard a Cruise Ship :)


Before you book that next cruise, make sure to check out 15 Things to Know Before Your First Cruise and 10 Things NOT to Ask a Crewmember to avoid the worst questions out there, as well!


As always, God Bless and I hope to see you somewhere around the world.


Love, Kait

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