Skip to main content

I sailed on MSC’s newest and oldest ships: Here’s what it's like to cruise on new ships vs. older


Does age really matter for a cruise ship?  I’ve sailed on MSC’s oldest and newest ships in the Caribbean and found some major differences between the classic ships and newcomers in the fleet. 

Price, size, service, itineraries, and amenities all vary between ships, especially when comparing the senior ships of the fleet to the newly launched stars. 

There are pros and cons to cruising on older and newer ships, and selecting the right ship is important for a relaxing cruise vacation that meets your budget and style of travel. 

After five MSC cruises in the Caribbean, here is what you need to know about MSC cruise ships.

Sailing on MSC's oldest ships offers incredible deals, saving cruisers tons of money 


Price is one of the main reasons why cruisers pick an older ship. This is not specific to MSC Cruises but rather a general industry trend. Newer ships with all the latest bells and whistles tend to run at a premium and are assigned to the popular routes. For those who are willing to deal with a slightly older ship or fewer amenities, there are major deals to be had. 

This is certainly my experience. Last year, I was able to sail on MSC Divina for 4 nights for the incredible price of $185 per person. To make it even better, this also included basic Wi-Fi and a drink package— quite an impressive deal, to say the least. To have a long weekend away, which includes food and entertainment for under $200, is an unbeatable price. I felt like I had won the lottery! 

Many may be wondering just how old is old. MSC Divina was launched in 2012, so it is not ancient by today’s standards, as most cruise ships are built for a lifespan of 30 years, although there aren’t that many around these days. By comparison, Carnival Cruise Line’s oldest ship, Carnival Sunrise, and Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas were both launched in 1996. 

Read more: How to save money on an MSC cruise

MSC’s new ships really pack in the passengers 

Sailaway party

Many cruisers worry that bigger ships will be more crowded, and sadly, this can be the case and seems to be a trend with MSC Cruises' newer ships. Despite adding more decks and widening ships, the significant increase in the number of passengers makes them feel even more crowded.

When I looked at the numbers, I was shocked by the trend I discovered. For example, MSC Seascape is 21% bigger in size than MSC Divina but holds a whopping 35% more passengers. If you think you could feel more crowded on a new ship, you would be right – the numbers don’t lie. 

Unfortunately, this has been a trend for a while. If you look at the gross tonnage (a common measure for cruise ship size) divided by the number of passengers onboard, the figures have consistently gone down on newer ships. MSC Divina has a space ratio of 32, MSC Seaside 31.2, and MSC Seascape 28.8.

You will probably wait a little longer for a drink on a newer ship 

MSC drink

One of the ways MSC can offer low prices is through efficiency. Many guests think service on older/ smaller ships tends to be better, and looking at MSC’s stats, this would seem to be the case. 

Salaries and wages are the largest expenses for a cruise ship. MSC’s financial statements are private, but one of its main competitors, Carnival Cruise Line, spends over $2 billion a year on labor costs, which is 18% of total revenue. Maximizing staff efficiency is critical to overall profitability. 

Looking at the number of passengers per crew member, MSC Divina has a staff ratio of 3.13 to 1, which increases to 3.57 to 1 on MSC Seascape. While this may not sound like a significant increase, for thousands of passengers, it can translate to slower service, and this has been a common complaint on ships like MSC Seashore. 

There is another factor to consider as well: capacity. I witnessed this issue on MSC Divina, which was sailing at 95% capacity during a busy spring break cruise. Onboard, it felt like we had to wait forever for drinks at the bars. If you travel during peak times, you can expect slower service on old or new ships. Also, post-COVID, there has been a surge in demand for cruises, meaning most sail with high capacities. 

Read more: Why are MSC cruises so cheap?

Old or new, there are still plenty of great amenities on MSC ships 

Bowling MSC

One of the great things about cruising with MSC in the Caribbean is the variety of amenities on any MSC ship. Guests can expect multiple pools, a casino, bars, shows, bowling alleys, theatre shows, kids clubs, spas, and more. Even MSC’s smallest ships can welcome more than 4,000 passengers, so the ships need to be well-equipped to entertain all these guests.

For families or multi-generational cruisers, I would suggest taking a look at a newer ship. With so much onboard, there's lots to do for cruisers of any age. In particular, the newer Seaside ships feature a fun waterpark with a vibrant pirate theme and an out-of-control kraken. 

Regardless, all MSC’s ships have kids clubs, a selection of cabins for every budget, and even the cruise line's luxury Yacht Club area, which has deluxe cabins, dedicated venues, and butler service.

MSC ships don’t offer as many complimentary dining options, even on the newer ships sailing in the Caribbean 

MSC buffet

One of the major drawbacks to sailing on MSC ships is the limited complimentary dining options compared to other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line. This is even the case for its newest ships, which rely on large buffets and main dining rooms for the majority of meals. 

All of the ships I have been on have rather large buffets that offer tons of different stations with both hot and cold items. There are even special kids sections, which is fun and convenient for families. However, they could benefit from some other quick-service venues. Given the lack of other eateries, the buffet tends to be one of the busy spots, especially at peak hours. While this may be the case, most of the ships I have been on have outdoor settings, which are rarely, if ever, full and offer a wondering opportunity to eat outside. 

There are also specialty dining options that specialize in cuisines like sushi, fine cuts of steak, and seafood—a nice addition to a meal in the main dining room. In particular, I really enjoyed MSC's Butcher’s Cut Steakhouse, which has been on all of the ships I have been on. The ambiance, service, and perfectly cooked meals make it my number-one recommendation. I also like HOLA for Mexican fare, but it's not on some of the older ships. Another perk of MSC is that its specialty dining packages tend to be well-priced.

MSC’s older ships offer some unique itineraries  

MSC Caribbean

New ships rarely seem to have the best itineraries, which is an important consideration when I choose a cruise. I want to go somewhere a little more off the beaten path—as much as you can do that on a cruise ship. Some of the newer mega-ships can’t fit into some ports, limiting their itinerary options. 

This was the case for my last cruise. I chose MSC Seaside because it was the only ship I could find that had the itinerary I wanted. After several cruises with popular port stops in the Eastern and Western Caribbean, the idea of cruising to the southernmost islands of the Caribbean to less-visited ports was of great appeal. 

A slightly older ship like MSC Seaside sails out of ports in Barbados, Guadeloupe, and Martinique, which you can’t find on other cruise lines. For those cruisers who want to see a different side of the Caribbean, instead of busy ports like Nassau or Cozumel that can handle 5 or more cruise ships in a day, an older MSC ship may be a fantastic option.

Read more: Why I left Royal Caribbean for MSC Cruises

Entertainment/activities tend to be better on the newer ships but could still be improved 

MSC show

MSC Cruises is not really known for its entertainment, although they seem to be making progress in this area. While onboard, guests can expect live music, theatre shows, comedy acts, acrobatics, and dance shows, which are typical cruise ship activities. 

Their recent partnership with Guinness World Records adds live shows that are fun for the whole family. I attended this on the MSC Seascape and thought that it was a good addition to their entertainment schedule. It was not too long and good for all ages. 

I also really like the addition of the Le Cabaret Rouge on the newer ships, which provides another venue for entertainment, with some comedy shows and other alternatives. Although MSC is not known for having Broadway-style shows, it has enhanced its entertainment offerings in the last couple of years. 

MSC Cruises is a family-friendly cruise line with lots to do regardless of which ship you pick when sailing to the Caribbean 

MSC kids

Will families notice a difference between newer and older ships? MSC Cruises is a great option for families with kids, regardless of their size. Last year, MSC Seascape won "Best Cruise for Families," reinforcing MSC’s success in this market. 

The European cruise line has the requisite activities and amenities cruisers expect. Kids clubs, pools, slides, waterparks, ziplines, and plenty of sports are all part of the offerings. MSC recently launched the first robotics coaster at Sea, Robotron, which will appeal to thrill seekers who like high adrenaline rides they find on competitors like Carnival Cruise Line or Norwegian Cruise Line. I personally have not tried the new ride, and a couple of times I went to have a look at it, it was not functioning. 

MSC also has a partnership with LEDO, providing some fun onboard activities, including the "LEGO® Experience On Board" - an entire day dedicated to LEGO, something the whole family can enjoy. In addition, MSC has also partnered with renowned company Chicco for the best baby stuff. 

In my opinion, the newer ships, like MSC Seashore and Seascape, have a slight edge for those wanting to have even more fun onboard. The themed waterparks are an upgrade from the aquapark onboard MSC Divina. They also have an even better arcade/virtual world. Regardless of which ship, do note that activities like bowling, cinema, and F1 racing simulator come at an extra charge.

Some of MSC’s older cruise ships don’t support MSC for me, the cruise line's mobile app  

MSC for me app

All of you tech lovers out there may be shocked to know that you can’t use the MSC for my app on some of the older ships. This was the case when I sailed on MSC Divina last year. It is quite surprising that MSC has some older ships that don’t support the technology. While MSC Divina has since been upgraded and now can use the app, some ships still lack the technology. 

What does this mean when cruising? It’s a throwback to older times. Your cabin attendant leaves a hard copy of the Daily Program in your cabin for the following day. It lists all the activities going on throughout the day, as well as information about ports, activities, dining times, theme nights, and anything else relevant, like the all-aboard time.

The MSC for Me app also provides free onboard messaging to other guests, which means that guests will not be able to do this on older ships. An internet package would be the way to go if you want to easily keep in touch with fellow cruisers while onboard. 

MSC’s newer ships have beautiful interiors with lots of ambiance 

Seascape view

The first thing I noticed when I stepped on MSC Seascape was how beautiful the ship was (and that it was virtually identical to MSC Seashore). Design and decor are something that MSC excels at. But how much does that matter? When picking a cruise ship, does the age/look of the ship play a factor? After recently sailing on MSC’s oldest ship in the Seaside Class, I started to give this some thought.

MSC Seaside is 8 years old, which is not really that old by cruise ship standards but enough that you start to see a little wear and tear. Also, being the first ship in the series, cruise lines tend to refine and add things to make it even better. In my experience, after sailing on the newest ship in this class, that is the case. 

MSC Divina is 12 years old and most definitely shows its age despite being refurbished in 2017. I found that ship to feel extremely dated and much darker than the newer ships. All things being equal, I would pick a newer ship, but price and itinerary are also significant factors when picking a cruise.

Read more: MSC Cruises ships by age

If the environment is important to you, MSC Cruises has implemented several initiatives on their newer ships to lessen the environmental impact  


While cruise ships can get a bad rap for their environmental impact, MSC Cruises has been making strides to improve the impact that their cruise ships have on oceans. I know people who don’t want to cruise, given the carbon footprint/impact on the environment, but things are definitely moving in the right direction. 

The newer ships of the Seaside Class, including MSC Seascape, have some of the best advances today, including the best-in-class wastewater treatment systems, water purification systems, and other technologies that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90 percent, a major improvement to say the least. This is in addition to LED lighting, high-efficiency appliances, and recycling efforts implemented across their fleet. 

This is complemented by MSC’s major overhaul of an industrial site in The Bahamas into the stunning Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, which has seen the re-introduction of plant and animal life in a pristine natural setting. Its reinvigoration of coral and surrounding ecosystems makes it a perfect place to spend the day. 

Old or new MSC ships - what's the verdict?


I like to think that I could have a great time on any cruise ship, and I have certainly enjoyed all of my past MSC Cruises. While the ship plays a pivotal role in a wonderful cruise vacation, price and itinerary are equally important when selecting the right ship for your cruise. 

I personally like the design and light of the new ships, although things like roller coasters and the latest innovations aren't important to me. I thought MSC Seascape was a beautifully designed ship, and it was incredibly inviting, especially since I had the opportunity to sail in the Yacht Club. However, a fantastic deal or a more exotic itinerary is definitely enough motivation to try an older ship 

In the end, it is important to figure out what is most important for your perfect cruise holiday. Who you are traveling with, where you want to go, and your budget are all critical factors when choosing the ideal MSC cruise ship

Loading Comments