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Buenos Aires is a must-see on your MSC South America cruise to Argentina. Its heart is the spacious, palm-dotted Plaza de Mayo, the ideal place to begin a tour of the area and explore its historical and political connections; its mismatched medley of buildings includes the famous Casa Rosada, or government house.
An amble westwards from the plaza will take you along Avenida de Mayo, the city’s major boulevard, offering an impressive display of Art Nouveau and Art Decoarchitecture. At its western end, Avenida de Mayo opens onto the Plaza del Congreso, presided over by the Congreso Nacional building, the seat of the federal parliament.
Casa Rosada, a typically Argentine blend of French and Italian Renaissance styles, stands on the site of the city’s Spanish fort, begun in 1594 and converted in 1776 to the viceroy’s palace. In 1862, President Bartolomé Mitre moved the government ministries to the building, remodelling it once again.
The final touch was added in 1885, when the central arch was added, unifying the facade. Behind the Casa Rosada, the Plaza Colón features a gigantic Argentine flag and a Carrara marble statue of Christopher Columbus, looking out to the river and towards the Old World.
MSC South America cruises also offer excursions to the north of Buenos Aires, where the four residential barrios of most interest to visitors – Retiro, Recoleta, Palermo and Belgrano – each retain a distinctive character. Nearest to the centre, Retiro and Recoleta – known jointly as Barrio Norte – have chic streets lined with boutiques, art galleries and smart cafés. Recoleta is associated primarily with its magnificent cemetery where, among other national celebrities, Evita is buried.
Both barrios also share an extraordinary concentration of French-style palaces, tangible proof of the obsession of the city’s elite at the beginning of the twentieth century with established European cities
When you’re cruising the Atlantic Ocean with MSC Cruises the Atlantic Ocean with MSC Cruises, Punta del Este is the port of call for you in Uruguay. Situated on a narrow peninsula 140km east of Montevideo, Punta del Este is a jungle of high-rise hotels, expensive restaurants, casinos and designer stores bordered by some of the finest beaches on the coast.
Exclusive and luxurious, between this and the nearby towns of La Barra and José Ignacio, this is the place to be seen for many South American celebrities in summer.
The best thing to do in Punta del Este is what everyone else does: go to the beach. Within striking distance and well worth the trip is the whitewashed Casapueblo, a remarkable villa and art gallery. The beaches are what attract most visitors to Punta del Este, and two of the best are on either side of the neck of the peninsula.
Playa Mansa on the bay side is a huge, arcing stretch of sand, with plenty of space for sunbathing and gentle waves, while Playa Brava on the eastern side is where you go if you’re serious about surfing, or simply to compare your height to the fingers of the uncanny Hand in the Sand sculpture, one of Uruguay’s most famous sights. The area’s best sight is Casapueblo, by Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, a vision just waiting to be seen on an MSC South America excursion.
He started the construction himself in the late 1950s, and today it’s an unwieldy yet strangely beautiful villa, restaurant, hotel and art gallery clinging to the side of a craggy peninsula 15km west of Punta del Este. Bright white and lacking any right angles, it’s well worth a visit to see Vilaró’s artwork.
As you approach the low-lying, whitewashed colonial port of Vila do Abraão in Ilha Grande with your MSC cruise ship, the mountains rise dramatically from the sea, and in the distance there’s the curiously shaped summit of Bico do Papagaio (“Parrot’s Beak”), which rises to a height of 980m and can be reached in about three hours.
There’s really very little to see in Abraão itself, but it’s a pleasant enough base from which to explore the rest of the island. Ilha Grande comprises 193 square kilometres of mountainous jungle, historic ruins and beautiful beaches, excellent for some scenic tropical rambling. The island is a state park and the authorities have been successful at limiting development and maintaining a ban on motor vehicles.
Ilha Grande offers lots of beautiful excursions along well-maintained and fairly well-signposted trails, but it’s sensible to take some basic precautions. Carry plenty of water with you, and remember to apply sunscreen and insect repellent at regular intervals. According to legend, the pirate Jorge Grego was heading for the Straits of Magellan when his ship was sunk by a British fleet.
He managed to escape with his two daughters to Ilha Grande, where he became a successful farmer and merchant. However, in a fit of rage, he murdered the lover of one of his daughters, and shortly afterwards, a terrible storm destroyed all his farms and houses. From then on, Jorge Grego passed his time roaming the island, distraught, pausing only long enough to bury his treasure before his final demise.
If there is any treasure today, though, it’s the island’s wildlife: parrots, exotic hummingbirds, butterflies and monkeys abound in the thick vegetation.
As you’ll be able to appreciate when you cruise the Atlantic Ocean with MSC Cruises, in its position on the southern shore of the magnificent Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro has, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most stunning settings in the world.
Extending for 20km along an alluvial strip, between an azure sea and forest-clad mountains, the city’s streets and buildings have been moulded around the foothills of the mountain range that provides its backdrop, while out in the bay there are many rocky islands fringed with white sand.
The aerial views over Rio are breathtaking, and even the concrete skyscrapers that dominate the city’s skyline add to the attraction. As the former capital of Brazil and now its second-largest city, Rio has a remarkable architectural heritage, some of the country’s best museums and galleries, superb restaurants and a vibrant nightlife – in addition to its legendary beaches. A shore excursion on your MSC South America cruise can be the opportunity to visit the Pão de Açúcar.
The Sugar Loaf Mountain rises where Guanabara Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Its name may simply reflect a resemblance to the moulded loaves in which sugar was once commonly sold. Alternatively, it may be a corruption of the indigenous Tamoya word Pau-nh-Açuquá, meaning “high, pointed or isolated hill”. On the top of Corcoavado Mountain instead the Art Deco statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), arms outstretched in welcome, stands 30m high and weighs over 1000 tonnes. It was supposed to be completed for Brazil’s centenary independence celebrations in 1922, but wasn’t actually finished until 1931.
In clear weather, fear no anticlimax: climbing to the statue is a stunning experience, with the whole of Rio and Guanabara Bay laid out before you.
High above the enormous bay of Todos os Santos (All Saints), where your MSC cruise ship awaits your return, Salvador de Bahia has an electric feel from the moment you arrive.
This is the great cultural and historical centre of Brazil, where Afro-Brazilian heritage is strongest and where capoeira, candomblé and samba de roda were created.
MSC South America cruises offer excursions to the centro histórico of this magical place, a melange of narrow cobbled streets, peeling purple walls, grand Baroque churches, kids kicking footballs, rastas, locals sipping bottled beer on plastic chairs, the wafting aroma of herbs and the almost constant beating of drums, especially as the sun sets. Beyond the old town Salvador is a vast, sprawling city, with a vibrant beach life, modern skyscrapers and plenty of favelas.
The centro histórico is the traditional heart of Salvador; it’s built around the craggy, 70m-high bluff that dominates the eastern side of the bay, and is split into upper and lower sections. Cidade Alta (or simply “Centro”) is strung along its top, linked to the less interesting Cidade Baixa (the old commercial centre, aka “Comércio”) by precipitous streets and the towering Art Deco lift-shaft of the Elevador Lacerda. Cidade Alta is the cultural centre of the city, and the section known as the Pelourinho is the groovy old district with colourful and hilly winding streets, its most vibrant and beguiling neighbourhood.
The best spot to begin a walking tour of the city is at the Praça Municipal, the square dominated by the impressive Palácio do Rio Branco, the old governor’s palace which was in use until 1979. The fine interior is a blend of Rococo plasterwork, polished wooden floors and painted walls and ceilings.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the port capital of Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s seven Canary Islands. The city showcases incredible sights such as the Plaza de Espana, the church of St. Francis of Assisi, and the soaring white wave auditorium, the Auditorio de Tenerife. This quintessential Canary Island’s town is a colourful MSC Mediterranean Cruises destination where you can soak up the sun, dine in style, or take a dip in glittering waters.
Casablanca, an impressive port city on Morocco’s magical coast, is an MSC Mediterranean Cruises destination. Discover Mauresque architecture, attractive beaches, and the colourful Old Medina.
Place Mohammed V, a square of symbolic significance, is resplendent with palm trees and a majestic fountain. Beyond the port, two extraordinary cities await your discovery — vibrant Marrakech and beautiful Rabat.
The port city of Palma, an MSC Mediterranean Cruises destination, lies on the south coast of Mallorca. Founded in 124 B.C., Palma is celebrated for its medieval streets, jaw-dropping architecture, and ancient fortified walls. See buildings such as the Cathedral of Santa Maria which features designs by Gaudí and one of the world’s largest stained-glass windows, or the Gothic Bellver castle with its circular centre and eye-catching towers.
The UNESCO-protected port of Valletta, the capital of the island of Malta, is one of the must-see stops for every Mediterranean cruise of merit.
You can admire this port, constructed in the second half of the 16th century by the Frenchman Jean de la Valette and moulded by the religious and military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, from your MSC ship even before disembarking. The over 300 monuments rising in little more than half a square kilometre make this a place with one of the greatest density of historical attractions to visit during a cruise, not mentioning other attractions such as its beaches, seaside locales and restaurants.
An excursion to the island can start right from its capital, Valletta, which enchants the cruise-goer with its famous Maltese balconies, which decorate the facades of houses in its old quarter. Surrounded by a multitude of churches, which the islanders assure are as many as the days of the year, the St. John’s Co-Cathedral is one of Malta’s biggest tourist attractions.
The National Museum of Archaeology, on the other hand, hosts prehistoric artefacts found on the island. By the Grand Harbour, one can visit the underground passages of Auberge de Castille and the beautiful Baracca Gardens, which overlook the harbour; at night, when the city gates would close, its porticoes served as shelter for travellers. To get a taste of the life of Malta’s ancient nobility, visit Casa Rocca Piccola.
A 16th century Palazzo now the residence of the 9th Marquis De Piro, it has period furnishings and has a bomb shelter built for protection against bombings during the Second World War. The set of the film Popeye can still be seen from Malta’s largest beach, as well as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha with a fresco of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Christ; according to tradition, Saint Luke, who was shipwrecked on the island with Saint Paul, is the author of this Byzantine-style fresco.
With its seafront cafés and ancient alleyways, shouting stallholders and travellers on the move, bustling, exuberant Split is one of Croatia’s and the Mediterranean’s most compelling cities, it’s easy to see this feeling when you step aground from your MSC cruise.
It has a unique historical heritage too, having grown out of the palace built here by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 295AD. The palace remains Split’s central ingredient, having been gradually transformed into a warren of houses, tenements, churches and chapels by the various peoples who came to live here after Diocletian’s successors had departed.
Adapted long ago to serve as Split’s town centre, Diocletian’s Palace is certainly not an archaeological “site”. Although set-piece buildings such as Diocletian’s mausoleum (now the cathedral) and the Temple of Jupiter (now a baptistery) still remain, other aspects of the palace have been tinkered with so much by successive generations that it is no longer recognizable as an ancient Roman structure. Best place to start exploring with an MSC excursion the seaward side of the palace is Split’s broad and lively Riva.
Running along the palace’s southern facade, into which shops, cafés and a warren of tiny flats have been built, the Riva is where a large part of the city’s population congregates day and night to meet friends, catch up on gossip or idle away an hour or two in a café. Nearly everything worth seeing in Split is concentrated in the compact Old Town behind the waterfront Riva, made up in part of the various remains and conversions of Diocletian’s Palace itself, and the medieval additions to the west of it. You can walk across this area in about ten minutes, although it would take a lifetime to explore all its nooks and crannies.