MSC Cruises’ growth in Southampton has been somewhat meteoric over the last few years.
From just offering a few summer cruises back in 2017-8, to now offering all-year-round voyages from their own new cruise terminal, there is something on offer for every cruiser on a variety of different MSC ships.
IMPORTANT: Please stick to your embarkation times – this helps the flow of passengers through the terminal and onto the ship. Ignoring embarkation times leads to large queues and increased wait times.
Introduction to MSC Cruises UK
MSC Cruises operates from the Port of Southampton for its voyages. During the ‘Return to Cruising’ in 2021, MSC offered multiple embarkation ports additional to Southampton – these included Liverpool and Greenock (Glasgow).
In 2022 MSC Cruises will again offer a packed cruise programme with their flagship, MSC Virtuosa.
All cruises will depart from Southampton and whilst open to other nationalities this time around, embarkation will only be at the Port of Southampton and specifically, at their brand new cruise terminal – the Horizon Cruise Terminal.
In this guide, we will cover how the cruise terminal works and the embarkation and disembarkation procedures for sailing with MSC Cruises from Southampton.
MSC Cruises Southampton FAQ
Horizon Terminal Southampton
Located at Dock Gate 10, Southern Road is the new Horizon Cruise Terminal – a joint partnership between MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.
This is the main terminal for MSC Cruise departures – it is signposted as ‘Dock Gate 10’ or ‘Horizon Cruise Terminal’ on West Quay Road, Southampton. The postcode for your sat nav is SO15 1HG.
Horizon Cruise Terminal offers short stay and long stay parking. Drop-off facilities by car or taxi are also available at the port.
The short stay and long stay car park are both signposted and port staff are on hand to guide you to the correct car park or drop-off. You must book long-stay parking before arrival.
Taxis are available from just outside the front of the cruise terminal.
MSC Cruises Parking in Southampton
MSC Cruises have their own parking in the Port of Southampton at the Horizon Cruise Terminal which is located on Southern Road, Southampton (SO15 1HG).
- The parking is safe, secure and located on the Port of Southampton property
- You take your keys with you after parking
- The car park is locked after all passengers have arrived and the ship has set sail – it is monitored by CCTV and the port
- Parking for Back to Back voyages is available
- Blue Badge parking spaces are located nearer the front for easier terminal access
- Luggage trolleys are on hand
- Arrive anytime before your cruise ticket boarding time
Simply book your parking online for your cruise and then print out the parking voucher you are emailed.
When you drive to the port, follow directions to Dock Gate 10 and Horizon Cruise Terminal (SO15 1HG) – simply put the parking voucher on your dashboard and you will be directed by the car park staff to exactly where you park.
There are luggage trolleys on hand to take your luggage to the terminal and baggage drop-off area.
Cruise car parking can be booked directly via AB Parking.
MSC Cruises Covid-19 Requirements from Southampton
The requirements for passengers embarking MSC Cruises in Southampton are updated frequently and the only place you should be looking for official updates is on the official website – but make sure you are reading the correct section for you and your voyage.
- MSC Cruises Health & Safety Measures page
- Make sure you read the section labelled:
COVID-19: MEASURES TO EMBARK FOR UK RESIDENTS & NON SCHENGEN COUNTRIES
Breakdown summary at this time (6th August 2022)
- NEW: All passengers aged 12 or over must be fully vaccinated OR read other requirements
- Boosters are recommended, but not required.
- A lab-certified negative Covid-19 test is required for boarding (Ages 2+) – this must be taken no more than 48 hours before your boarding time.
Example: Embarkation time of 11am Saturday – test must not be taken any earlier than Thursday 11am.
- Please read the MSC Cruises Health & Safety Measures page for the full details.
MSC Cruises Embarkation in Southampton
After arriving at Horizon Cruise Terminal (whether by car, taxi or other means) you will need to drop off your luggage – this is usually just your case(s) that you would usually check-in if you were flying. Hand luggage and suit carriers can be taken inside the terminal (or anything else, as long as you can carry it through the terminal, security and onboard the ship without help).
Make sure you print out the luggage labels that are on the PDF that MSC Cruises sends you when you have ‘checked in’ online (your travel agent may send them if you didn’t book direct) – you can print out as many labels as you wish. Just attach them to your case before you hand them over to baggage drop-off. If you lose a label, forget one or need an extra one – just ask – you can get one at the baggage drop-off area.
Make sure your check-in luggage doesn’t weigh more than 23KG per case/bag – this is for the health and safety of the baggage handlers and the crew on board who will deliver your luggage to outside your cabin door for you.
Note: Do not put your passport in your check-in luggage – you need it next!
(Important: Since April 2022 the rules have changed regarding face masks in the terminal – they are not mandatory anymore)
At check-in, you’ll be asked to show your passport, cruise ticket, MSC health form (which is in your cruise ticket), Covid-19 test result and vaccination/proof of recovery certificates (if applicable).
You can show digital insurance/vaccination proof if needed on your phone – however, some people have said that reception in the terminal isn’t great – so feel to print out them beforehand, or save screenshots on your phone (make sure they are clear!)
Cruise ship security is much like airport security – apart from there is no limit on liquids (ie toiletries, etc) – MSC’s policy is not to bring drinks or food onboard, but of course, you can bring some snacks/drinks for yourself or your children whilst you are boarding without issue.
Everything will go through the x-ray machine and you will walk through an x-ray scanner – belts, watches, etc will be placed in a tray via the machine.
Covid-19 Testing (no longer conducted at the port)
Important: Since late April 2022 – Covid-19 testing at the port is no longer conducted. However, you must still have a valid negative Covid-19 test that was taken within 48-hours of your embarkation time.
After security, you head up the escalator to the waiting area. A brief check of your paperwork follows (cruise ticket).
You will be assigned a group number (sticker or piece of paper) which you will need after the final check-in – this will be your waiting area number.
After arriving in this area, you go to the long check-in desk at the rear of the cruise terminal. Here, a customer relations agent will take your cruise ticket and passport from you briefly, only to check. They may also ask to see your insurance details and take a copy of your vaccination history too.
They will ask to take a photo of you – this photo will be uploaded to the ship and used to confirm your purchases in shops on board and allow you entry to/from the ship.
You will then be handed your cruise card – this states which deck and cabin you are located on and also your dining time. Additionally, it will also be a different colour card based on the MSC Voyager Club status you have. Initial first-time passengers are blue cards.
Sometimes, you are given the option to register a credit or debit card here – but you can actually do this on board and have 48 hours from embarkation to do this at one of the many automated machines around the ship (more details about those in your cabin).
You then sit at the numbered waiting area until your group is announced to board the ship.
There are free refreshments (bottles of water) handed out by the MSC crew if you wish and also toilets available.
Boarding the ship
When your group is called you head to the doors at the rear of the waiting area which is signposted – your cruise card will be checked and you follow the signs to the ship. The walk can be quite lengthy as the gangway is a series of ramps to allow wheelchair/mobility access. However, there is no rush and you can enjoy views of your ship as you walk along them.
As you approach the ship you’ll cross one final gangway onto the ship and you will need only your cruise card from here. A member of the ship’s security team will ask for your card which they will scan and they will check your photo (just taken) matches you – you are then free to enter the ship.
On arrival, you will find a number of MSC crew waiting to greet you – they can help direct you to lifts and/or your cabin if you need help. Generally, cabins are not ready until around 12:30-1pm PM on the day of embarkation.
You are free to use any of the bars, restaurants or other facilities on the ship from the moment you board!
MSC Cruises Back to Back sailings from Southampton
If you are booked on a back to back cruise on the same ship with MSC Cruises you will need to visit the Guest Relations desk during your first cruise and confirm the procedure with them.
Generally, you will be required on the day of your second cruise to visit Guest Relations and settle your bill for your first cruise and they will re-check you in without you needing to leave the ship (this is only applicable in Southampton – other ports, such as Miami may differ) – this is usually done between 9-10am.
They will take a copy of your passport and vaccination record again and issue you a new cruise card for the second cruise duration (and take a new photo of you).
You will then need to visit the Medical Centre for a free Covid-19 LFT test which they will do for you – Guest Relations will phone ahead and confirm it is free and the result will be told to you and uploaded to the system so that the ship knows you are Covid-19 clear.
Other than that, everything else continues as normal – one thing to note is if you have an existing internet package is that it does not run out until midnight on your last day (your first day on your next cruise) – so you will need to use the same login information until midnight.
If you are parking at the Horizon Cruise Terminal for a Back to Back cruise – let them know when you arrive, you will be directed to park in a slightly different area (of the same car park) so that your car isn’t left in the way when everyone leaves from the first cruise!
MSC Cruises Disembarkation in Southampton
Disembarkation is very easy with the Horizon Cruise Terminal.
As standard practice on all cruises, the luggage that you do not wish to carry off will be collected from outside your cabin by around 1am on the last night of your voyage. You will be given labels to put on your luggage on the final day and you can visit Guest Relations if you need any more.
Depending on your MSC Voyager status or your MSC Cruise Experience (Bella, Fantastica, etc) you will be assigned a disembarkation time and a place to meet for this.
Simply follow the instructions on the letter in your cabin and make sure that your cruise balance is ZERO. If you are even in credit by 0.50 GBP/0.50 EUR you will be denied leaving the ship until you collect the balance from Guest Relations! Visit there before you leave the ship!
MSC Cruises UK Facebook Group
We hope you have found this guide useful – if you want to ask a question about MSC Cruises in the UK or any of their ships – we run the largest network of MSC Cruises Facebook Groups with thousands of helpful past cruisers in them.
The groups are unofficial but offer advice on each ship, itineraries and tips and tricks for getting the best out of your MSC Cruise. Each group is dedicated to a specific ship or speciality and you’ll find many trip reports, photos and videos to enjoy before your voyage!
You’ll find links to all the other MSC Cruises groups we run in any of those groups!
Also read: MSC Virtuosa Southampton Cruises