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Miami is called the gateway to the Americas, and it’s indeed a very glamourous global city to explore at the start or end of an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise. Home to many cultures, the city of Miami sizzles with flavours from the Americas, beginning with Cuba and the Little Havana neighbourhood – one of the most historically significant places, while Wynwood is famous for its wall art and Puerto Rican history.
Across Biscayne Bay lies the city of Miami Beach, home to the world-famous South Beach. An MSC-arranged guided private tour opens up a world of possibilities for you: enjoy the beach, take in the city’s Art Deco architecture and enjoy a drink on legendary Ocean Drive, where you can people watch, and perhaps spot a celebrity. If time permits, take a stroll on artsy Lincoln Road packed with street side cafes and shops.
Facing the MSC Cruises port in downtown Miami is Bayside Marketplace – a lively commercial centre that is a staging area for boat tours of Miami. Seeing the city from the water, with its impressive skyline and waterfront mansions, is an experience in itself. The downtown area also boasts the dazzling Performing Arts Centre, the Museum of Science, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (known as the PAMM), scenic Bayfront Park and the arena where the 3-time NBA champion Miami Heat basketball team plays.
Miami is renowned for its shopping. Hop on a tour to see the major city sights followed by retail therapy at one of Miami’s largest and newest shopping malls: Dolphin Mall. With more than 240 retail outlets, you’re bound to need a bit of room in your luggage for your purchases. Luckily, there are several luggage stores at the mall to fill that need.
Head west past the city into untamed wilderness on an MSC excursion into the Everglades. At this national park where water is the central feature, unlike any other in North America, nature enthusiasts can hop on an airboat tour through the swampland and waterways to spot alligators and a variety of birds.
While the name Ocho Rios means eight rivers in Spanish, a truer reflection of its name (considering the city has four rivers) may stem from its earlier Spanish name of Las Chorreras, referring to its waterfalls. In either case, it’s precisely its existing rivers, beautiful waterfalls and crystalline sea that promise to awe visitors to Jamaica who have a passion for the lush outdoors.
For an unforgettable experience on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise, try one of the many outdoor MSC excursions offered on the city’s rivers, such as kayaking, bamboo rafting and tubing, or try climbing one of its famous waterfalls.
A must-see attraction is Dunn’s River Falls, where a guide will lead you up along an almost 600-foot stretch of naturally terraced river bed as part of a human chain. Once up on top, enjoy a breath-taking panorama worthy of photos, and explore a craft market and numerous shops.
Or ascend Konoko Falls to admire the tropical gardens with sinuously shaped flowers and a mini zoo of exotic birds and reptiles, before embarking on a gastronomic farm-to-table experience and traditional Jamaican buffet lunch in the hills of Claremont at the organic Murphy Hill Farm, on an exclusive Martha Stewart excursion for MSC.
Music lovers can’t help but pay tribute to reggae legend Bob Marley. Journey to Bob Marley’s Nine Mile, a nearby mountaintop village, to see the birthplace and final resting place of the star. The MSC excursion includes a visit to a small Ethiopian-style church housing the marble mausoleum in which Marley’s remains have been entombed along with his guitar.
And James Bond fans can take heart in the fact that it was here in Jamaica in the 1950s and 1960s that author Ian Fleming created 007 and wrote every one of the 14 books featuring the stealth secret agent from his villa at nearby Oracabessa Bay. Scenes for the 1962 movie “Dr. No” and the 1973 film “Live and Let Die” were filmed in and around Ocho Rios.
Located in the southern Caribbean, Aruba stands out with its desert-like vistas, wind-shaped trees, natural rock formations and breath-taking beaches. Its terrain offers plenty of opportunity for exploration and off-road trekking.
As you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise in Oranjestad, the tax-free capital named after William I (the Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands), admire the city’s charming Dutch Colonial architecture with its antique buildings and houses that blend in with today’s modern architecture.
Not much grows on Aruba. However, its hot dry climate is ideal for aloe farming. Book an MSC excursion to the Aruba Aloe Museum & Factory, and learn about the 160-year history of aloe farming on the island.
If adventure is on your agenda, get on a UTV on an MSC excursion that will take you through Aruba’s outback, skirting along the coastline with visits to the Alto Vista Chapel, the Bushiribana Gold Mill ruins that remind us of Aruba’s 19th-century gold rush, and to the early 20th-century California Lighthouse, which bears the name of an unfortunate ship that sank nearby in 1891. An on-road driving MSC excursion will visit those sites as well, along with the amazing Casibari Rock Formation, or huge diorite boulders found in the centre of the island.
Take a “Natural Aruba” MSC excursion to tour the Butterfly Farm, then pass countless divi divi trees and cacti before arriving at Aruba’s Natural Bridge, a wonder carved out of solid coral by the relentlessly pounding surf.
Or relax in the calm waters lapping Arashi Beach and Palm Beach, while snorkelers will enjoy our catamaran sailing excursion that explores Boca Cathalina and the “Antilla” World War II shipwreck, considered to be one of the top dive and snorkel sites of the Caribbean.
Cobbled streets, balconies overflowing with blooming bougainvillea and pastel-coloured buildings lining elegant plazas make Cartagena in Colombia one of the Caribbean’s most photogenic cities, and a memorable stop on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise.
Founded in 1533, this Spanish colonial city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is steeped in history. Its location made it a popular target for plunderers and English pirates, and arguably features the most impressive collection of forts in the Caribbean. Today the city is eager to share its treasures with modern visitors. Magnificent colonial structures such as the 16th-century Santa Catalina Cathedral, with its striking stuccoes and dome tower, and the three-arch clock gate, the Torre del Reloj, are just two of the many landmarks of this enchanting city dotted with many squares and sidewalk cafés.
A wonderful photo stop on our Cartagena City MSC excursion is the San Felipe de Barajas fortress, a marvel of colonial Spanish military engineering. Its construction began in 1536. Slaves la-boured for more than 120 years to erect this fortress – built on high ground with dominating ap-proaches to the city by land and sea to fend off pirates – and its network of tunnels.
On yet another MSC excursion, enrich your palate as you learn about the rich aromas and flavours of Colombian coffee. Introduced by the Jesuits in 1723, coffee quickly became a key crop in Colombia, which is now one of the top producers of Arabica coffee in the world.
Colombia is also the world’s top producer of emeralds. If jewellery and gems fascinate you, learn all about these green precious stones and make your own emerald-studded jewellery in sterling silver during a hands-on MSC excursion that guides you step-by-step.
And you don’t need to go far to explore nature. An MSC excursion takes you by canoe through mangrove tunnels to Ciénaga de la Virgen, where you can witness a diversity of birds from king-fishers and white herons to pelicans and pink-feathered roseate spoonbills.
Panama is synonymous with the Panama Canal. While Panama connects Central America to South America, the Panama Canal, which opened in 1914, connects the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean. The channel reduces shipping time and currently connects 160 countries and 1,700 ports around the world. Hailed as an engineering marvel, the artificial waterway with its elaborate lock system is one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century.
Arriving on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise into Colón, Panama’s gateway city, you’ll encounter the irresistible juxtaposition of the ancient and modern, the artificial and natural, as enormous computerized container ships transiting the canal slice through primeval rainforests teeming with fluorescent frogs and elusive wild cats.
Book an MSC excursion to hop on a ferry that will take you along the length of the Panama Canal, through lakes and locks and past the Centennial and Americas bridges. Finally, you will arrive at Pacific port at the entrance to the Panama Canal, and then enjoy a 90-minute bus ride back to your ship.
Not far from the ceaseless activity on the canal lies untamed nature. Take a guided eco-cruise on Gatún Lake, surrounded by rainforest. Gatún, created in 1913 to fill the fertile valley of the Chagres River, is the world’s largest artificial lake, and an integral part of the dam and canal. Catch glimpses of exotic birds, monkeys, sloths, iguanas, crocodiles and more. Following your lake cruise, go on a rainforest walk and follow the eco-trail that surrounds the lake.
Head off the beaten path on an MSC excursion to explore the world of the Emberá people, located only half an hour by dugout up the Chagres River. Emberá villagers, who live much as they did when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, will welcome you in traditional dress, with dances, music and their artefacts: baskets, jewellery and the cocobolo, a small sculpture made from a special kind of wood.
The Colón cruise also gives you the opportunity to discover bustling Panama City, the country’s capital, with its pleasant blend of modern and colonial architecture. Enjoy a scenic visit to Panama City’s cobblestoned historic centre, Casco Viejo, or the Colonial City, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Founded in 1673, the Casco Viejo, or Casco Antiguo as it is also called, was built following the near-total destruction of the original Panama City two years earlier, when it was attacked by an Englishman, Captain Henry Morgan. The Casco Antiguo brims with historical buildings, including a cathedral and national theatre, a French monument to the 22,000 workers who died building the Panama Canal, and the fabulous Las Bóvedas walkway. The tour also includes a quick visit to Agua Claras Locks (Expansion Centre) to see how the Panama Canal operates.
From mountainous cloud forests and volcanoes to tropical rainforests, Costa Rica in Central America is renowned for its biodiversity and environmental conservation. When you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruisein Puerto Limón, you’ll discover the biggest city on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast as well as the most important port in the country.
From the port, Limón is a perfect starting point for adventurous explorers on one of many MSC excursions that will let you be one with nature in what is called Costa Rica’s Amazon.
Enjoy a boat adventure down the jungle-fringed Tortuguero Canal, spotting orchids, water lilies, crocodiles, spider monkeys, manatees and otters along the way. Wave to the locals busy on the banks or in dugout canoes on the water as you pass.
On another MSC excursion, spend half a day meeting some of Costa Rica’s cutest creatures: sloths. The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica, founded as a not-for-profit rescue centre in 1997, lets you mingle with some of the coolest dudes in the jungle with their languid movements and permanently smiling faces. Your time at the sanctuary also includes a canoe ride along the freshwater of the Estrella River, a habitat for 180 bird species, monkeys, turtles and scores of butterflies.
Soar through the tree canopy on an aerial tramway at Veragua Rainforest Research & Adventure Park, walk to a beautiful waterfall and rub shoulders with myriad butterflies, including the incredible blue morpho. Then, on this thrilling MSC excursion, zip line across 11 observation plat-forms and 9 traverses on an amazing course which has you gliding over the rainforest canopy, spotting monkeys, sloths and toucans in the trees.
Or explore Afro-Caribbean culture, passing through Limón’s oldest neighbourhoods with houses on stilts and banana and cassava plantations, before watching local dancers perform to Caribbean rhythms and share Costa Rican traditions.
Setting foot on Isla de Roatán, off the coast of Honduras, is like entering an incredible work of art where the mountainous lush green junglescape meets the glorious blue sea, and deep coves hide pirates of the past. Roatán, after all, was at one point home to more than 5,000 pirates.
Largely untouched, Roatán is known for its barrier reef, fishing and diving cultures. The island offers easy access to beautiful beaches and its coral reef, a sanctuary for snorkelers and divers exploring the bounty of its marine life.
You’ll arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise into Coxen Hole, the capital of the island, aptly named after the pirate who anchored his ship here at the end of the 17th century.
Head off the beaten track to explore the picturesque fishing villages of Punta Gorda, with its Garifuna people, descendants of island Caribs and African slaves, and Oak Ridge, a village on stilts only accessible by boat. Here in an exclusive Martha Stewart excursion curated for MSC, you’ll learn about the local fishing culture, taste local delicacies and explore the island’s waterways and mangroves.
For something more adventurous, book one of several MSC excursions that will have you darting across suspension bridges, zip lining through jungle canopy and mingling with monkeys, toucans, parrots and many other birds that inhabit the local forests.
Seeking more vibes? Head to popular West Bay for excellent cocktails, beautiful beaches, shopping and entertainment that livens the atmosphere in the rhythm of Caribbean music.
Nature made it Beautiful, we made it Unique
Discover our new and exclusive Bahamian destination: Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.
Here you can spend a one-of-a-kind experience on an authentic Caribbean Marine Reserve, while connecting with the natural world, feeling the warmth of the Bahamian spirit and immersing in an eco-friendly environment.
On Ocean Cay you can enjoy a relaxing massage in a cabana, discover the beauty of the sea and explore the area with dedicated excursions.
Port Canaveral, a departure port of an MSC Caribbean and Antilles Cruise, is located just 45 miles east of Orlando and is known for its Space Coast.
On the Merritt Island peninsula you can discover the phenomenal Kennedy Space Center. Here the NASA’s space vehicles are developed, tested and blasted into orbit. Set up a bit like an Orlando theme park, the vast Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will enthrall anyone with the slightest interest in space exploration, with everything from enormous rockets and the history of the moon landings, to IMAX movies and a space shuttle launch simulation on offer.
Many of the visitors who flock here are surprised to find that the land from which rockets are launched is also the home of sizeable Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge framed by several miles of rough coastline.