MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review: Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Cyprus

Are you thinking of booking a cruise in the Mediterranean? Wondering is MSC a good cruise line to choose? In this blog post, I’ll share my review of our MSC Mediterranean Cruise to Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Cyprus, as well as the ship we sailed on – the MSC Lirica. So, whether you’re considering booking a Mediterranean cruise with MSC or just curious about what they’re like, keep reading for more information!

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review: MSC Lirica

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review

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MSC Lirica: The Ship Review

While one of the older ships in their fleet, the MSC Lirica still holds up to the test of time! It has 14 decks and many amenities, including 11 restaurants, 12 bars, 5 pools, a spa, a casino, and a theater.

Our Stateroom

We stayed in one of the balcony rooms, and let me tell you, that is the way to go!! We loved being able to enjoy coffee in the morning or a drink in the evening on our own balcony. The room was plenty spacious for two people. See my walkthrough tour below:

Ship Amenities + Entertainment

MSC Lirica offers a wide variety of amenities to keep guests entertained and comfortable during their cruise. The deck has multiple pools plus a fun kiddie splash pad!

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review Pools
Kiddie Pool - MSC Lirica

For those looking to stay active, there is a fitness center with a panoramic view and an outdoor jogging track. The ship also has a spa with a sauna, steam room, and beauty salon. Be sure to check out the daily specials!

Gym on MSC Mediterranean Cruise
MSC Lirica Cruise Ship walking track

As far as entertainment goes, there is never a short supply of things going on. Check out a show in the Broadway theater, get lucky in the Las Vegas casino, or dance the night away in the Blue Club disco! (photo below from MSC website)

MSC Lirica Bar

For families, the MSC Lirica also has a great kids and teens club! (photo below from MSC website)

Kids Club on MSC Lirica

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review - Food on MSC Lirica

MSC Lirica offers a wide range of dining options to suit every taste. There are three main restaurants, each with its own unique style and menu, as well as an extensive buffet:

    • La Pergola
    • L’Ippocampo Restaurant
    • Kaito Sushi Bar
    • Le Bistrot
    • La Bussola Restaurant

Check out this video of my favorite things we ate and drank on the MSC Lirica

The ship also has many great bars and lounges, including a cigar lounge and piano bar. Here’s a list:

    • L’Atmosphere
    • The Beverly Hills Bar
    • The Coffee Corner
    • Lord Nelson Pub
    • Il Lido Bar
    • Starlight Disco
    • Cigar Room
MSC Lirica Bar
MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review - Entertainment

Photos above from MSC website.

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review: Ports + Excursions

Our cruise began in Limassol, Cyprus, and took us to 5 other ports:

We enjoyed all of the ports, however, some excursions were better than others. Keep reading to hear about each destination:

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Route Review

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Port: Rhodes, Greece

The first stop on our cruise was Rhodes/Lindos, Greece. Rhodes is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Mediterranean. The island’s rich history and beautiful scenery make it a perfect place to explore. Rhodes is also home to a number of excellent restaurants and shops.

Cruise passengers often enjoy visiting Rhodes Town, which is the capital of Rhodes. Rhodes Town is home to a number of historic landmarks, including the Palace of the Grand Master. Other popular attractions in Rhodes include Lindos, which is an ancient Greek city, and the Valley of the Butterflies, which is a nature reserve.

Rhodes Greece Castle
Rhodes Greece

We booked the “Discovering the City of Rhodes” excursion with MSC. 

Tour Description: “Famed as the former site of the Colossus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and as one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities, Rhodes is well worth a visit and this excursion gives you a chance to explore its many attractions. 

The excursion includes a sightseeing tour before discovering the city on foot. As you make your way around the old part of the city, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, you will visit the magnificent 15th-century Grand Master’s Palace. Sadly, the original Palace was largely destroyed by an explosion; the sympathetic medieval style rebuild was taken in hand by occupying Italians in 1912. You will also have a chance to stroll down the famous Street of Knights with its many medieval inns, named for the homelands of their guests in days gone by. Your tour ends with some time at leisure before returning to the ship.”

Rhodes Greece Castle
MSC Cruise Rhodes Greece Excursion

My Review: Discovering the City of Rhodes Excursion

We enjoyed this tour and getting to explore Rhodes, but it was fairly crowded (as you often get when traveling in summer). Our guide was knowledgeable and we enjoyed getting time to explore by ourselves and do tons of shopping! You must check out the village with all the shops, they’re endless and so many great buys! 

There was a pretty good amount of walking (sometimes not on even ground) so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. 

Rhodes Greece Cruise Excursion
MSC Rhodes Greece Excursion

Watch my Rhodes Mini Vlog.

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Port: Santorini, Greece

Santorini is INCREDIBLE. It’s literally like a postcard. It’s no wonder Santorini is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world. The island is famous for its dramatic cliffs, bright blue waters, and quaint white-washed villages. Santorini is also home to a number of interesting historical sites, including the remains of a Minoan settlement and an ancient volcano. Visitors can take advantage of the island’s many hiking trails, go swimming or snorkeling in the clear waters, or simply relax on one of the many beaches. 

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review Greece
tour in Santorini
Santorini MSC Mediterranean Cruise

We went on the “Amazing Santorini” excursion. 

Tour Description: “Exciting, exclusive, edifying: three attributes that not only aptly describe this tour, but also the Greek island of Santorini itself, which was created when the crater left by a huge volcanic eruption collapsed, leaving only the rim, a so-called caldera. After a short boat ride to Athinios port, you will continue by coach to explore the island’s history, capital, and dramatic landscape. 

First up is Oia, a blue-and-white village in Cycladic style perched on the very edge of the caldera. After a guided walk through its pretty cobbled streets and some free time for a total of one hour, reach Fira, Santorini’s capital, for a short photo stop in the old quarter. You will visit a local winery giving you a chance to sample local delicacies made of cheese, tomatoes, olives, and bread accompanied by a delicious wine tasting session. 

Last up is ancient Akrotiri, a town that flourished during the Minoan Bronze Age, but then fell victim to a major volcanic outbreak that covered it in ash in the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C.. Since excavation work began in 1967, many extremely well-preserved artifacts have been uncovered, including frescoes and even some three-story buildings. You will have about 40 minutes to enjoy this prehistoric site before boarding the coach, reach Athinios port where a motorboat awaits to take you back to the ship.”

Santorini Greece MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Santorini MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review

My Review: Amazing Santorini Excursion

This excursion was great! First, we went to the infamous Oia. Luckily, since we went early, it wasn’t too crowded. We had free time to wander around and take photos which I highly recommend you do!

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review - Santorini Port

Pro tip: Be patient when taking photos, there are going to be a lot of people trying to get the same shot. And angles are always your friend 😉 

Santorini Excursion
Santorini

We grabbed a coffee and beer at a cute little cafe called Lotza that had amazing views. Yes, that photo below is the actual view and no filter – definitely worth a stop!!

Beer with a View in Santorini

Next up on the excursion was a visit to Anhydrous winery for a tasting. Personally, I thought they were a littleeee stingy on the pours, but it was included with the tour and a nice little stop. 

Anhydrous Winery

After a little wine, we headed to the Prehistoric town of Akrotiri. Akrotiri is one of the most important archaeological sites on the island. The settlement was buried by a massive volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC, and as a result, it has been well-preserved.

Akrotiri was first excavated in the early 20th century, and since then, it has provided a wealth of information about life in the prehistoric Aegean. The site includes a number of well-preserved houses, as well as a number of artworks and artifacts. Akrotiri is also home to an impressive collection of murals, which provide insight into the culture and beliefs of the people who lived there.

MSC Cruise Akrotiri Excursion
MSC Cruise Santorini Excursion Akrotiri

Last on our MSC excursion was Fira, Santorini’s capital. We had ample time to wander and explore and get some lunch. After you make your own way to the boat via the cable car down to the port and then a tender back onto the cruise ship.

MSC Cruise Santorini Excursions

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Port: Athens, Greece

Athens is the capital city of Greece with a history that dates back over 3,000 years. It is best known for its ancient ruins, which include the Parthenon temple, and it is also home to numerous museums and art galleries. Athens is a popular port of call for cruise ships due to its abundant historical and cultural landmarks. The city is easily explored by foot, and there are many tours available through MSC

MSC Cruise Excursion - Best of Athens

In Athens, we went on the “Athens & Visit to The Acropolis” excursion

Tour Description: “Take some time off the ship and head for Athens for a comprehensive sightseeing tour through the main streets and squares of a city steeped in classical history. Not only is Athens widely regarded as the cradle of western civilization and the birthplace of modern democracy, it is also a cornucopia of visual delights you will not want to miss. 

After the city tour, you will continue on to Athens’ premiere landmark: the imposing Acropolis, a plateau that overlooks the town at a height of 150 metres. Among various other examples of classical Grecian architecture, the site is home to the world-famous Parthenon, a huge temple dedicated to the ancient Greek goddess, Athena, and one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments. A brief stop will be made for some souvenir shopping before the tour concludes with your return to the ship.”

Best of Athens Tour on MSC Cruise

My Review: Athens & Visit to The Acropolis Excursion

This tour was not our favorite. Unfortunately, our guide was quite soft-spoken and it was hard to hear/understand him which made him not the most engaging.  However, the tour did take us to see some great sites though, and I think it would be great normally — the guides can just make or break a tour. I would still book this and give it another chance, I just like to be totally honest with my readers 🙂 

We first had a quick visit to the Olympic stadium. 

After that and a drive around the city, we headed to the main event: The Acropolis. It truly is amazing to see these incredible pieces of history/architecture that are still standing today.

Acropolis Athens Greece MSC Excursion
Best of Athens Tour
Acropolis Athens
MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review Athens

Not to mention, the view of the city from the top is stunning! I had no idea Athens was going to be so beautiful. 

Best of Athens Tour with MSC
Athens excursion MSC cruises

Be aware, that it’s a lot of walking/stair climbing, and the ground is marble so it’s VERY slippery. I would recommend wearing shoes with a bit of grip if you have them. And also be preprepared for the crowds, it’s a popular spot!

MSC Best of Athens Tour
Touring Acropolis Athens Greece

After the Acropolis, we were given free time to explore the little shopping village nearby and grab some lunch before heading back to the ship. Again, I would still recommend this tour, it took us to a lot of great spots, but I hope you get a different guide. Another great option with more in-depth history would be the “Plaka, Acropolis & Archaeological Museum” excursion.

Watch my Athens Mini Vlog.

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Port: Kusadasi, Turkey

Kusadasi is a beautiful Turkish resort town located on the Aegean Sea. It is known for its stunning beaches, crystal clear water, and lively nightlife. Kusadasi is also home to the ancient city of Ephesus, one of the most well-preserved Roman ruins in the world. A visit to Kusadasi is not complete without a tour of Ephesus, where you can stroll down the marble streets and imagine what life was like in this once-great city. 

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review Kusadasi

We went on the “Best of Kusadasi” tour excursion.

Tour Description: “Designed to give you a one-day overview of three of the best tourist sites around Kusadasi, this full-day excursion combines faith, ancient history, culture, and shopping. Leaving the port of Kusadasi, the first destination will be the House of the Virgin Mary, a place sacred to both Christians and Muslims. It is considered to be the place where the Virgin Mary spent the last years of her earthly life around the end of the first century. You will visit the site, which consists of a small chapel with a single room housing the statue of the Virgin in the centre, a small side room where the Virgin is believed to have slept, and an outer wall where pilgrims leave their prayers on small pieces of paper.

Next, board the coach and start a journey to ancient history by visiting the extensive archaeological site of Ephesus. Follow your guide to discover the wonders of this ancient city: the Library of Celsus, the Agora, the marble street where many of the shops where situated, the remains of Hadrian’s Temple, of which only two columns supporting an arch remain and the theatre, which could seat up to 14.000 people, and the baths. 

A visit to the Ephesus Archaeological Museum is also on the itinerary. This small museum in Selcuk boasts an incredible collection of Hellenistic and Roman statues, carved reliefs and artifacts unearthed from the ruins of Ephesus. The famous statue of Artemis (goddess of fertility) is housed here.

Next, it is time to take a break and sit in a restaurant for a delicious lunch and recover strength. On the way back to the port, enjoy a panoramic drive passing by Isa Bey Mosque, the very old Turkish bath ruins, and a Temple of Artemis. Some time for shopping opportunity and to enjoy a carpet weaving demonstatrion concludes your excursion.”

MSC Cruise to Ephesus

My Review: Best of Kusadasi Excursion

We really really enjoyed this excursion! Contrary to our tour guide the day before (in Athens), our guide in Kusadasi was fantastic! He was engaging, informative, and entertaining.

The first stop on our excursion was to The House of the Virgin Mary. Regardless of your religious views, it’s pretty humbling to be where Mary is said to have lived after Jesus died. It’s a beautiful site and definitely worth seeing when visiting Kusadasi. 

MSC Cruise Excursion House of Virgin Mary
MSC Cruise Excursion Virgin Mary House

Next up: The ancient city of Ephesus. The city was known for its Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the Library of Celsus, one of the largest libraries in the ancient world. Now, it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ephesus MSC Cruise Excursion
MSC Cruise Excursion Ephesus

It really is pretty incredible that these buildings/ruins are still standing. The detail in the stonework is amazing as well. 

MSC Cruise Excursion Ephesus
Ephesus MSC Cruise Excursion

It was VERY hot the day we visited. If you’re going in the summer, I would definitely recommend wearing a hat and bringing a fan (this is the one I use). Like at the Acropolis, the ground is marble and can be very slick. Be extra careful and consider wearing shoes with grip.

MSC Cruise Excursion Ephesus Turkey
MSC Mediterranean Cruise Excursion Ephesus

The tour includes entry into the Ephesus Archaeological Museum. It houses many items excavated from Ephesus, including its best-known ancient statue of the Greek Goddess Artemis.

After the museum, we took an unexpected pit stop at Donna Milan — a random, side-of-the-road leather goods store. To be honest, I didn’t love this part of the tour. Basically, we were forced to watch a fashion show of leather goods and then sent into a showroom where they tried to sell us leather jackets, purses, etc. I understand this is how these shops make their money, but it felt like a little much.

After sitting in the showroom for a little longer than we’d have liked to, we headed to lunch (included). The tour concluded with a carpet weaving demonstration… and another sales pitch to buy rugs/jewelry/leather goods. Regardless of which tour you choose, this is probably going to happen so just be ready for it and be patient 🙂 

There is some good shopping once you return back to the port. If you’re in the market for some reallllyy good designer knock-off bags and goods, this is the place to buy!

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Review: Kusadasi, Turkey Mini Vlog.

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Port: Haifa, Israel

The last stop on our MSC Mediterranean Cruise was Haifa/Jerusalem, Israel. Haifa is Israel’s largest port and the closest to get to Jerusalem by cruise. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and one of the oldest cities in the world. The city is considered holy by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and its history goes back to the Biblical era. Jerusalem is a city with many different cultures and religions, and it is considered a symbol of peace and tolerance. It’s a pretty incredible place to visit on a cruise!

Haifa Cruise Port MSC

We booked the “Jersusalem” excursion

Tour Description: “Come with us on a 2-hour drive to Jerusalem, one of the most inspiring cities in the world and renowned for its historical significance, spiritual symbolism, and visual splendour. 

Your excursion will begin with a stop at Mount Scopus to enjoy the breathtaking view. The visit continues with a walking tour through the old town of Jerusalem. Pass Dung Gate, the Western Wall – the remains of the second temple destroyed by Romans in 70 AD and the most sacred Jewish shrine in Jerusalem. Walk along a part of the “Via Dolorosa”, considered by Christians to be the holiest road in the world, the path where Jesus was led to death. You can also admire the Church of the Holy Sepulchre without entering the tomb. 

A stop to enjoy a lunch based on traditional food will be followed by a trip to a souvenir store in Jerusalem, from where we will drive back to Haifa port.”

MSC Jerusalem Excursion

My Review: Jerusalem Excursion

Prepare for a longggg day! It’s a 3-hour drive just from the cruise port to Jerusalem, but it is definitely worth it!! We first drove up to Mount Scopus which provided a beautiful view of the city:

MSC Mediterranean Cruise Tour of Jerusalem

Then the bus dropped us off outside the gates of the city to begin exploring! Our guide took us through to the Western Wall – known in the West as the Wailing Wall, and in Islam as the Buraq Wall, which is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

MSC Cruise Tour Jerusalem
MSC Cruise Tour Jerusalem

We continued on through the city. It was so interesting to see the different quarters (Jewish, Muslim, Armenian, and Christian) and the actual stations of the cross. 

MSC Cruise Tour Jerusalem
MSC Cruise Tour Jerusalem
MSC Cruise Tour Jerusalem
MSC Jerusalem Excursion

Be prepared, it is very crowded and hectic, but worth it! If you go during the summer months, it’s very hot as well — I recommend bringing a hat and a fan.

We continued on to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus’ tomb is believed to be. It is incredible inside and very humbling to see.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Tomb of Jesus MSC Jerusalem Excursion

We were taken to another “exclusive shopping spot,” — again, I didn’t love this part but I do get it. 

After, we headed to a sort of random hotel for a buffet lunch. We weren’t sure what to think initially, but the food was surprisingly delicious! I think they needed a large place to provide lunch for all the MSC Cruise tours. It was one of the best meals we had!

Then it was back to the ship. There was some serious traffic (which is common) so we took a different route back and got to see the Dead Sea off in the distance and drive along the Jordan border which was cool. 

Dead Sea MSC Cruise
Jordan Border

I had several people ask about safety in Israel. Personally, I felt pretty safe, especially with the tour group. Once we did have armed officers board our tour bus for a routine check and asked to see American passports, but we had no issues other than that! 

Watch my Israel + Jerusalem Mini Vlog.

Overall: Is a MSC Mediterranean Cruise a good cruise to book?

Absolutely! We had such a time on our MSC cruise and I would totally take another one. Here’s why I would recommend:

MSC Cruises are very affordable — typically less expensive than Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, etc. MSC also has some great cruise deals! While it may not be the most luxurious ship, I still think it’s a great option! Plus their newer ships look amazing:

MSC offers so many different routes all over the world. Just in the Mediterranean alone they have multiple routes leaving from tons of different ports! Check out all the destinations here

MSC Lirica Cruise

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