The fresh gelato and mozzarella made onboard are far from the only reason you’ll love it.
If you haven’t heard buzz about MSC Cruises yet, it’s only a matter of time. This brand — the fourth-largest cruise line in the world, by capacity, though still lesser-known stateside — recently embarked on an ambitious $13.5 billion global expansion plan, including extensions into North America, to bring its Mediterranean hospitality to a wider audience.
The company’s deep-rooted Mediterranean history is a part of its broader ethos. Its parent corporation, the Mediterranean Shipping Company, was founded by in Naples by sea captain Gianluigi Aponte. After acquiring a local cruise line back in 1989, the branch that would come to be known as MSC Cruises steadily built up a loyal following in the region, eventually becoming the number one cruise line in Italy and Europe as a whole. MSC remains a family company, run by several generations of Apontes who oversee the growing cruise division and every aspect of its operations. From the international menus to lush design, there is a distinctly Mediterranean spirit to their ships.
MSC Seaview, the most recent addition to their fleet, is just the third of an eventual 13 megaships to be introduced over the next eight years. Alongside twin sister Seaside, which debuted in Miami in December 2017, Seaview is the largest ship ever built in Italy. And last week, the ship made a ceremonial entrance to the inaugural port in Genoa. After a glamorous christening event — featuring Sophia Loren, the company’s “godmother,” in her ceremonial role as ribbon-cutter — the ship set off on its first sailing.
The inaugural summer season will circle the Mediterranean, with six stops each week in Genoa, Naples, Messina, Valletta, Barcelona, and Marseilles. When autumn comes to Europe, Seaview will move to Brazil for a variety of itineraries along the coast. Because the ship will sail between hemispheres twice a year — creating an effect of endless summer — Seaview is known lovingly as “the ship that follows the sun.”
Interested in learning more about this luxe new megaship from the Mediterranean’s favorite cruise line? Travel + Leisure was invited for an exclusive tour around the just-christened MSC Seaview. Here’s a look inside:
The design for MSC Cruises' Seaside class, of which Seaview is the second of an eventual four ships, is inspired by ocean liners from the golden age of transatlantic travel. The engine and funnel are brought forward, toward the middle, allowing for better weight distribution and an unprecedented amount of outdoor space. The design also allows for a soaring four-story atrium in the middle of the vessel, surrounded by bars and lounges and focused around a LED installation that becomes a colorful backdrop for nightly live music. Connecting the various levels of the atrium are MSC Cruises' signature Swarovski crystal staircases, found on all of their newer ships.
MSC Seaview has 2,066 cabins that can welcome up to 4,052 passengers. There are seven levels of accommodation, ranging from affordable interior rooms (no windows) to various suites and family-friendly cabins. The two-bedroom grand suites, the largest of the options outside the MSC Yacht Club (more on that later), feature two bathrooms (including a bathtub) and a sizeable balcony, and other large suites include whirlpool baths on the deck. I stayed in a comfortable Balcony Stateroom and loved being able to read outside at sunset while enjoying a beer from my well-stocked minibar.
Food lovers rejoice: MSC Cruises is bringing its culinary offerings to the next level with its Seaside class, and the options aboard Seaview are as varied as they are delicious. The ship houses an impressive six specialty restaurants, like Asian Market Kitchen by chef Roy Yamaguchi, a noted restaurateur and pioneer of Hawaiian regional cuisine. Inside, you'll find three different spaces: a teppanyaki grill, where chefs experiment with nontraditional flavors and new applications of the teppan technique with dishes like filet mignon seared with rosemary-infused oil; a pan-Asian, Hawaiian-inspired a la carte space; and a sushi bar, where chefs slice up fresh seafood in front of your eyes for dishes like yellowtail crudo with grapefruit, ponzu, and kaiware daikon sprouts.
Next door, Spanish chef Ramón Freixa — who started his career at his family's eatery in Barcelona, before earning two Michelin stars at his eponymous restaurant in Madrid — serves up fresh and inventive seafood dishes at Ocean Cay. Freixa mixes his Mediterranean roots with his passion for "glocalization" to create spins on classic preparations, like a twist on huevos rotos swapping in octopus for the typical Serrano ham, or "Binomial Shrimp" served both as a tartare and head-on and stuffed with salmon roe.
For dessert, the place to be is the Venchi Chocolate Bar — formed in partnership with the 140-year-old Italian confectionary company. In addition to the gelato made fresh on board, using regional ingredients like Piemontese hazelnuts, Sicilian Almonds, and pistachios from Bronte, you'll find a candy case full of treats like olive oil chocolates and nutty cremino. For a sweet caffeine fix, try a specialty coffee with freshly-made gianduja and a hazelnut-coated rim.
There is also a steakhouse, Butcher's Cut; L'Atelier Bistrot, a french brasserie; three dining rooms for nightly dinners; and two buffet-style cafeterias. While the buffet options span the globe with dishes from cheeseburgers to palak paneer, the company’s Italian origins are especially evident here. Even the casual meals have flair, featuring fresh mozzarella made on board, innovative pizzas like a sausage pie with charcoal-infused crust, and local ingredients from each port (for their fresh pesto, the ship's culinary crew buys four tons of fresh basil every week). Oh, and there are 20 — yes, 20 — different bars around the ship.
The centerpiece of the wellness offerings is the MSC Aurea Spa, measuring at nearly 26,000 square feet. In addition to the dozens of massage treatment rooms, it also includes a thermal area with different areas to explore at your leisure, like a Himalayan salt room, several types of saunas, sensory steam baths bathed in mood-setting colored lights, and even a snow room for your cool down. The complex also has a medi-spa for treatments like acupuncture and even Botox, plus vinotherapy facials — harnessing the antioxidant power of grapes — and two dedicated rooms for thalassotherapy, a saltwater treatment.
Also onboard is a huge fitness center, with brand-new Technogym machines, a spinning studio, and daily fitness classes, and a sports area for activities like tennis and basketball. Post-workout, stop by the barbershop or Jean Louis David hair salon to freshen up.
Seaview has 13 public whirlpool baths and four pool areas, including an aft pool on deck seven. The sunniest spots are the main pool on the top deck and the limited-access plunge pool in the members-only Yacht Club area. The Jungle Pool, with a water park and a retractable roof, is your best bet for kids (especially on the occasional rainy day at sea). There are plenty of thrilling activities in and around the top-deck pool area, including the longest zip line at sea, an interactive slide-boarding game on one of the slides, and a 262-foot high glass bridge that juts out over the water.
The indoor activities are just as exciting. The ship is equipped with two full-size bowling lanes, an interactive 5-D cinema, and even an Formula 1 racing simulator. Six specialized areas are available for kids on board, from playrooms built in partnership with LEGO and Italian toy company Chicco to a teen-focused area with tons of videogames. Plus, free daily babysitting until 11 PM.
Adults will appreciate Seaview's many shopping areas and the 934-seat Odeon Theatre, which puts on seven different Broadway-style productions each with with multiple showings a night. And, of course, it's good to get off board and experience the ports on one of MSC's three- to four-hour excursions, including their recently-launched bike tours.
MSC Yacht Club
MSC is known for this "ship within a ship concept," which offers exclusive perks and a quieter, more private on-board experience. In addition to restricted-access public spaces, like a bar, pool, solarium, and private restaurant, Yacht Club guests enjoy bonuses like 24-hour concierge and butler service and dedicated treatment rooms in the spa. Suites, of which there are only 86, have marble bathrooms, memory foam mattresses, and hardwood detailing. A favorite hangout in the Yacht Club is the Top Sail Lounge, which offers the best panoramas on the ship — from here, you'll get the same view as the captain.
To maintain exclusivity, MSC Yacht Club guests make up (at most) three percent of the total passengers aboard Seaview. MSC Yacht Club options start at around $2,000 per person, inclusive of most costs.
MSC has been a leader in using technology to improve the cruise experience, introducing wearable bracelets that can function as a wallet, a room key, and even a kid-tracker, all connected to their MSC for Me app. Facial recognition technology allows staff to anticipate your needs and personalize your experience, and 139 interactive screens throughout the ship will allow you to check your schedule and make reservations for meals, shows, and excursions. MSC Cruises is also on track to have a digital cruise assistant, named Zoe, in every ship cabin by March 2019. Zoe will speak seven languages, acting as a personal cruise concierge.
To book: msccruisesusa.com; 8-day Mediterranean cruises from $538, 4-day South America cruises from $359.