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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.
Blessed with some of the oldest buildings in the Western Hemisphere, San Juan, Puerto Rico’s cap-ital, is romantically charming with its bright pastel Spanish colonial facades, wrought-iron balconies abloom with flowers, narrow cobblestone streets and beloved park squares. Once you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise at the port, explore Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan), a UNESCO World Heritage district, widely renowned for the fortresses of Castillo San Felipe del Morro and the Castillo San Cristóbal.
The old town occupies the headland of a 2.5-mile-long island (connected by bridge to the mainland) that shelters San Juan Bay, for centuries a key port in the New World. It was originally known as Puerto Rico, or “rich port,” because its location made it the perfect stop for shipping.
Several MSC excursions offer walking tours that let you soak up amazing views of San Juan, while making cultural discoveries of a lifetime. Wander through the old town along the Paseo de la Princesa, San Juan’s oldest tree-lined avenue; head up its southern city wall, La Muralla, which until the late 19th century encircled all of Old San Juan with sandstone; and tour the 16th-century fortress of El Morro, with its six different lines of defence.
Take a coffee-tasting walking tour to explore Puerto Rico’s rich coffee culture, and learn how the island’s rich volcanic soil and climate have contributed to the rise of coffee as one of its main crops. Taste a delicious cup of freshly brewed Puerto Rican café con leche, learn about the island’s historical ties with the caffeine-rich beverage, and explore how coffee and the church are connected on this MSC excursion through the streets of Old San Juan.
Or savour San Juan’s culinary delights, in a Martha Stewart excursion curated exclusively for MSC that will have you tasting local cuisine and drinks at five destinations along the route through the fortified colonial city. From Puerto Rican fritters at historic El Convento Hotel, to chocolate tasting at a fourth-generation chocolatier, you won’t want to miss this tour, which ends at La Casita de Rones for a rum lesson and a piña colada, the national drink of Puerto Rico.
With more than 80% of the world’s rum coming from Puerto Rico, delve deeper into the spirit on an MSC excursion to Casa Bacardí in the town of Cataño. Discover the story behind Bacardí’s legendary cocktails, sniff the products on display and learn about the rum-making process including wood barrelling, ageing and finishing. For the grand finale, enjoy a fascinating mixology show.
Nature lovers will not want to miss a visit to El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. territory and one of Puerto Rico’s finest spots of natural beauty. Marvel at its small horsetail waterfalls, giant ferns and tropical hardwoods.
For an enchanting experience, kayak into the enchanting bioluminescent bay at Laguna Grande of Fajardo on another MSC excursion. Under the blanket of the night sky and the lighthouse of Fajardo, paddle through the water and watch it glow with the bioluminescence of millions and millions of tiny organisms.
Offering some of the best vistas in all the Caribbean, St. Maarten is the smallest inhabited island in the world shared by two nations – France in the north and the Netherlands in the south. Dubbed the true melting pot of the Caribbean, the 37-square-mile island is home to people of 47 different nationalities and more than 400 restaurants, featuring a hugely diverse variety of cuisine.
The island also has two capitals: Philipsburg on the Dutch side, and Marigot in the French part. Once you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise in St. Maarten, explore how the two cultures have blended their very distinct characters on one of our MSC excursions.
Your St. Maarten cruise will dock in Philipsburg, founded in 1763 by John Philips, a Scottish captain in the Dutch Navy. Philipsburg, with its pastel-coloured West Indian houses, is known for its duty-free shopping along Front Street, the Great Salt Pond, which once made the island literally “worth its salt,” and attracted the attention of the French, and Fort Willem, built in 1801, with mag-nificent views of the bay and the surrounding islands.
From there, several MSC excursions take you on a hilly drive to the French side of the island to experience Marigot. Originally a fishing village on a swamp for which it was named, Marigot became the capital during the reign of Louis XVI. Fort Louis, which overlooks Marigot Bay and Anguilla, was built in the late 18th century to protect the town’s warehouses of salt, coffee, sugar cane and especially rum from the English. Today, Marigot showcases quaint colourful gingerbread-like houses, tasty sidewalk bistros and a waterfront market selling fruit and vegetables, spices, local meats and fresh fish from Creole huts worth exploring.
For something special, spend the day on the Dutch side of the island at the restored sugar planta-tion at Rockland Estate. Take in a history lesson at the Emilio Wilson Museum or a nature hike and 360-degree views from Sentry Hill. Participate in a hands-on cooking demonstration of authentic local cuisines with lunch at Emilio’s restaurant, in an exclusive Martha Stewart excursion curated for MSC Cruises.
Also at Rockland Estate, thrill seekers can book other MSC excursions on the Flying Dutchman, a fast and furious zip line ride that will have you whizzing down the line at speeds of up to 56 mph (90 km) per hour. Then take the Pirate Sky Ride cable car back up the top to the Crow’s Nest where several platforms encircling the mountain afford panoramic views of the neighbouring islands of Saba, Sint Eustatius, Saint Barthélemy and Anguilla. Then plunge down the mountain on a Schooner Ride inner tube along a specially designed track.
To experience one of the island’s hottest spots and most popular attractions, visit the famous Maho Beach, also called Airplane Beach. Don’t get too comfortable, though. This is because you watch as planes pass only a short distance above your head as they land and take off from Princess Juli-ana Airport’s short runway next door.
Thanks in large part to its French and West Indian influences, Martinique, a lush mountainous island in the Lesser Antilles with its dormant Mount Pelée volcano in the backdrop, exudes a cosmopolitan flair with a sophisticated culinary and cultural scene that draws travellers not only to its natural wonders, beautiful bays and beaches, but also to its heart at Fort-de-France, the capital. While French is the official language, most islanders also speak Antillean Creole. As part of the European Union, the island uses the euro as its currency.
When you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise in Fort-de-France, you immediately notice the island’s steep hills, colourful colonial architecture, ornate balconies and tropical flowers. Book an MSC excursion to the Balata Cathedral, a miniature replica of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre, Paris, which offers a spectacular view of Fort-de-France and the bay.
Before Martinique came to be known by its current name, it was once called Madinina, the island of flowers. At Balata Botanical Gardens, discover 300 types of palm trees, take in views from the garden’s suspension bridge and enjoy the tropical flowers in bloom across 16 acres of lush landscape.
Or try the island’s best rum distilleries. MSC excursions will take you to the Depaz Distillery, in business since 1651, or the St. James Rum Distillery & Museum, where you will learn about the process of making rum and taste the traditional Rhum Agricole, made by using freshly squeezed sugarcane juice rather than the conventional molasses.
Afterwards, visit the ruins of the theatre in St. Pierre, the former cultural capital of Martinique that was tragically destroyed by the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée. The modern-day town of St. Pierre is France’s 101st “City of Art and History.”
When you arrive in Barbados on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise, begin your exploration with the capital, Bridgetown. There are many attractions in this small Caribbean city, but by all means pause to admire its many colonial buildings, the Parliament Building and the statue of Lord Nelson standing in what is currently called the National Heroes Square.
Barbados has retained somewhat of a British feel, with its place names, cricket, horse-racing and polo, Anglican parish churches and even a hilly district known as Scotland. But the Britishness can be exaggerated, for this is a distinctly West Indian country, covered by a patch-work of sugarcane fields and dotted with tiny rum shops.
The Garrison Historic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with magnificent 18th- and 19th-century buildings, is a must-see stop, featuring one of the world’s finest collection of cannons. It also includes the George Washington House, where the American patriot spent six weeks of his life.
The current St. John’s Church, in the eastern parish of the same name, is the fifth reconstruction of the oldest local church, in Barbadian Gothic style. Perched on a cliff 800 feet above the sea, it dates back to 1836. Its interior hosts a sculpture by 18th-century British artist Richard Westmacott, while its churchyard contains the tomb of Ferdinando Paleologus, a direct descendant of the brother of Constantine XI, the last Byzantine emperor.
Book an MSC excursion to discover the island’s history at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society in the St. Michael neighbourhood. And tour Sunbury Plantation House, located in the tranquil St. Philip countryside. Dating back to 1650, it’s a living monument to plantation life and a bygone era.
Harrison’s Cave, in St. Thomas district, is a wonder of nature with its stalactites, stalagmites, streams, lakes and waterfalls. In one of the caverns, the play of light on the rocks is so in-tense that it has been nicknamed “The Crystal Room”.
For some fun at the beach, head to Pirates Cove, one of the best beaches on Barbados. Featuring palm trees and chickee huts, white sand and crystal-clear water, it’s the perfect place to relax, just a stone’s throw from Bridgetown.
If you’re brave enough to dive into the deep, set out on an MSC excursion inside a real submarine, the Atlantis, to explore the coral reef and discover the beauty that the depths reveal.
As you arrive in Funchal on an MSC cruise, your ship will cast anchor in a bay protected by mountains rising straight up behind the port. The name, Funchal, derives from that of the fennel plant, the funcho still used today in the traditional sweets known as rebuçados de funcho, that one can find anywhere on the island of Madeira.
An excursion will take you around the town centre, to visit historic churches, from the A Sé Cathedral, with its inlaid ceiling, to the majestic Church of the Incarnation, to the church of Carmo without a vault.
Another MSC excursion will take you up to the village of Monte, from where one can admire a spectacular view of the Funchal bay. You can visit its 18th century church and the tomb of the last Austrian emperor, Charles I, and stroll around the magnificent botanic gardens. But if you like heights, there’s nothing more impressive than the Cabo Girão and its 589 metre tall cliffs, amongst the highest in the world, at the foot of which lie the cultivated lands known as Fajãs do Cabo Girão.
If you’re looking for an equipped beach during your MSC cruise, another excursion will take you to Machico. Founded in the 15th century, it hosts the oldest religious building on the island, the Capela dos Milagres, and the fortresses of São João Baptista and Nossa Senhora do Amparo built in the beginning of the 16th century.
The more lively tourist attraction is instead in Calheta, on the south-west coast. Splendid yachts cruising across the Atlantic are moored in the port and if you want to go for a swim there are two beautiful beaches of golden sand; in spite of the modern structures Calheta dates back to the mid-15th century. This is where they make the “Aguardente”, the best white rhum, and fundamental ingredient of Madeira’s typical drink, the “Poncha” .
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.
One of the busiest cruise ports in the Mediterranean, the seaside city of Barcelona is known for its iconic architecture, colourful culture, and world-class drinking and dining.
Explore Antoni Gaudí’s surreal Sagrada Família, the famous boulevard of the Ramblas, the medieval Barri Gótic, and the Museu Picasso. But there’s even more to discover in this sprawling Spanish city, an MSC Mediterranean Cruises destination: from hidden tapas bars and fabulous food markets to Europe’s biggest football stadium.
Genoa is marvellously eclectic, vibrant and full of rough-edged style; it’s a great cruise excursion.
Indeed “La Superba” (The Superb), as it was known at the height of its authority as a Mediterranean superpower, boasts more zest and intrigue than all the surrounding coastal resorts put together.
During a holiday to Genoa you can explore its old town: a dense and fascinating warren of medieval alleyways home to large palazzi built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Genoa’s wealthy mercantile families and now transformed into museums and art galleries. You should seek out the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, the Palazzo Ducale, and the Renaissance palaces of Via Garibaldi which contain the cream of Genoa’s art collections, as well as furniture and decor from the grandest days of the city’s past, when its ships sailed to all corners of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Acquario di Genova is the city’s pride and joy, parked like a giant ocean liner on the waterfront, with seventy tanks housing sea creatures from all the world’s major habitats, including the world’s biggest reconstruction of a Caribbean coral reef. It’s a great aquarium by any standards, the second largest in Europe by capacity, and boasts a fashionably ecology-conscious slant and excellent background information in Italian and English.
Just 35 km south of Genoa, there’s no denying the appeal of Portofino, tucked into a protected inlet surrounded by lush cypress- and olive-clad slopes. It’s an A-list resort that has been attracting high-flying bankers, celebs and their hangers-on for years, as evidenced by the flotillas of giant yachts usually anchored just outside. It’s a tiny place that is attractive yet somehow off-putting at the same time, with a quota of fancy shops, bars and restaurants for a place twice its size.
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