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All-Star Lineup of Baseball Legends Kicks off 2005-2006 Caribbean Season

MSC Cruises' baseball theme cruises were so popular last year that the line is bringing them back for another Caribbean season. MSC Cruises will also feature other theme sailings, including Big Band cruises Jan. 13, March 20 and April 22 and a Feb. 15 Jazz cruise.

The baseball theme series begins with a powerful lineup of baseball greats, Hall-of-Famers Bob Feller, Ralph Kiner and Earl Weaver as well as Amos Otis, Bert Campaneris and Stan Bahnsen, onboard MSC Lirica's first Caribbean sailing of the 2005-2006 season. The Dec. 10 7-night roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale includes calls at San Juan, St. Maarten, La Romana and Cayo Levantado and two days at sea.

"Guests repeatedly told us how much they enjoyed meeting and interacting with the players," says Richard E. Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA. "It's a great way for fans to stay connected during the off-season and gain real insight into the National Pastime."

The cruise includes 10 free interactive passenger/player activities, including a player-hosted trivia game in which guests can test their baseball knowledge, question-and-answer sessions, and a lively story-telling session where players share candid revelations about some of the "characters" of the game. Players also host pitching, hitting and defensive strategy clinics. Perhaps the most popular activity is the free autograph session at the end of the cruise. One guest described the baseball theme activities as "just amazing," adding that "the players were interesting, very funny and very accessible to everyone."

"Having the legends of the game onboard adds yet another dimension to the MSC Cruises 'True Italian Signature' experience," adds Sasso. "It's been a real grand slam and we are looking forward to another winning season."

Baseball theme cruises are also scheduled for the Jan. 28, Feb. 18 and March 11 seven-night sailings of the MSC Opera and the MSC Lirica's 11-night April 22 itinerary. Participating players will be announced at a later date.

Prices for the 7-day cruise begin at only $600 per person, double occupancy.

MSC Lirica Earns Perfect Score from U.S. Public Health

MSC Lirica scored a perfect 100 on its latest U.S. Public Health (USPH) Vessel Sanitation Report. A division of the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), USPH conducts periodic inspections of cruise ships to monitor their onboard cleanliness, food-handling and sanitation practices. The MSC Cruises ship earned the rare spotless report just prior to departing on its final 10-night Caribbean cruise of the season.

The MSC Lirica will return to the Mediterranean for the summer with a 17-night transatlantic voyage departing from Port Everglades May 2, 2005. As part of the voluntary inspection program, the CDC reviews the levels of sanitation on all passenger cruise ships arriving at U.S. ports. Ships are rated on whether the following items meet CDC standards: water, food preparation and holding, potential contamination of food, and general cleanliness, storage and repair. A score of 86 or higher is considered "Satisfactory." Both the MSC Lirica and its sister ship, MSC Opera, have consistently scored highly on their USPH inspections. MSC Opera achieved a 95-point rating in an inspection March 5, 2005.

New Port Calls for 2005-2006 Caribbean Season

MSC Cruises' MSC Opera and MSC Lirica will return to Caribbean waters in 2005-2006 with exciting new itineraries that include port calls to two of the region's most memorable locations in the Dominican Republic. "After the successful Caribbean season we had this year, we are very excited to be able to offer our guests the opportunities next season to visit two destinations - La Romana and Cayo Levantado - that are not often found on 'typical' Caribbean cruise itineraries," says Richard E. Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA.

"This adds yet another dimension to MSC Cruises' 'True Italian Signature' experience for both first-time and repeat guests." Among the attractions available to guests at the new port calls will be whale watching, beautiful beaches, critically acclaimed golf courses, horseback riding and plenty of water sports.

Cayo Levantado is a small stretch of land off the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic in Samana Bay. Known for its pure white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and natural rainforest vegetation, it is also an ideal spot to see humpbacked whales, as thousands of the creatures migrate to the warmer North Atlantic waters during the winter months. At the port of La Romano on the eastern region of the island, MSC Cruises' guests will find access to beautiful beaches and water sports, an active artists' village, wildlife and flora reserves, horseback riding and several golf courses that have earned international recognition.

MSC Lirica departs Genoa Nov. 23 on a 17-night transatlantic sailing that calls at Málaga, Funchal, Martinique, Grenada, Antigua, St. Thomas and San Juan before arriving in Fort Lauderdale Dec. 10. MSC Cruises will make its inaugural visits to La Romana and Cayo Levantado with MSC Lirica's first sailing of the 2005-2006 Caribbean season. The ship departs Fort Lauderdale Dec. 10, 2005 on a 7-night itinerary that calls at San Juan and St. Maarten in addition to La Romana and Cayo Levantado.

MSC Opera departs Genoa, Italy Dec. 27 on an 18-night transatlantic/New Year's crossing. The ship calls at Valencia, Funchal (where guests will mark the arrival of 2006 with fireworks), Grenada, Margarita Island, Martinique, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and San Juan before arriving in Fort Lauderdale Jan. 14 for her second Caribbean season. MSC Opera will call at La Romana and Cayo Levantado 12 times in 2006, sailing a series of seven-night Eastern Caribbean itineraries roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale Jan. 14-April 1 that also take guests to San Juan and St. Maarten.

MSC Opera departs Florida April 8 on a 17-night eastbound transatlantic crossing, calling at Cayo Levantado, Tortola, Martinique, Funchal, Malaga and Marsiglia before arriving in Genoa. MSC Lirica begins her return to Europe May 3 on a 17-night journey that includes calls at Cayo Levantado, Tortola, Martinique, Funchal, Malaga and Barcelona, before arriving in Genoa.

"MSC Lirica and MSC Opera will serve as the perfect backdrop for these new Caribbean itineraries, as guests enjoy the 'Premium Class with a True Italian Signature' style found only on MSC Cruises," says Sasso. "From the fine cuisine that ranges from traditional Italian recipes to gourmet delights and perennial favorites to the Italian officers and international crew to the European-style entertainment - including the roaming 'Pagliacci' troupe - that earned rave reviews this season, guests will find unparalled warm winter getaways that reflect the heart and soul of Italy."

Four MSC Ships Get Berlitz Highest Marks

Three ships of the MSC Crociere fleet clinched 4 stars in the ranking of the prestigious Ocean Cruising & Cruise Ships 2005 Guide published by Berlitz. MSC Opera, the new MSC Crociere flagship christened in June 2004, took four stars in the classification of the prestigious guide. The new standard-bearer of the Italian-style cruise line, following hot on the heels of its sister ships MSC Lirica and MSC Armonia, won the leadership position among all ships regularly operating in the Mediterranean with departures from Italy, surpassing its major competitors in the ranking.

This is an outstanding result for the new ship of the MSC Crociere fleet. It took over the leadership role in its market of reference in less than a year from the time it entered service. The excellent placing in the Berlitz Guide classification of MSC Opera, MSC Lirica and even MSC Armonia - acquired last year by MSC and brought up to the fleet's high standards of quality within a few months' time - is also tacit proof of the value of the MSC Crociere product acknowledged on an international level.

The Berlitz guidebook, which this year is celebrating its 20th anniversary, is the most authoritative "snapshot" of the world cruise scene.

'La Cucina Italiana' Comes to Caribbean Waters

Buon appetito!  MSC Cruises' MSC Opera and MSC Lirica bring new menus featuring regional Italian specialties as well as international delights and more traditional All-American favorites.

"Our company's roots are in Italy, and we pride ourselves on our authentic Italian culinary delights," says Richard E. Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA. "A team that includes Managing Director Enrico Borniotto and Corporate Chef Alberto Martinelli has created menus that offer guests the opportunity to enjoy the best tastes of all worlds - including our 'True Italian Signature' dishes."

In addition to a variety of freshly made pasta and risotto dishes for both lunch and dinner, each evening's seven-course menu features a specialty dish from a region of Italy, such as tortellini in a capon broth from the Emilia Romagna region, lamb and mushroom quiche "Aretina" from the Toscana region, green beans and tomatoes quiche Genoa style from the Liguria region, veal scaloppini with tomatoes and mozzarella Sorrento style from the Campania region, and lasagna "Gocce d'oro" (with meat sauce, porcini mushrooms and cheese), also from the Emilia Romagna region.

For guests who prefer more traditional menu fare, items such as broiled chicken breast, grilled sirloin steak, pan-roasted salmon fillet and Caesar salad are always available for dinner in addition to the menu items.

Each lunch and dinner menu also features a selection of "Healthy Choice" and vegetarian dishes, including tasty sugar-free desserts. Lunches also feature All-American favorites from the grill, such as hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries. One of the highlights of each dinner is the "bread of the day." Made fresh onboard daily, bread selections include bacon and sage bread, sun-dried tomato bread roll, four-grain bread roll, green olive bread roll, and onion and "pecorino" cheese bread.

Plus, there are additional options throughout the day, including breakfast, lunch and midnight buffets, pizza with a variety of toppings from the pizzeria and 24-hour in-cabin service. "With so many delectable choices available, guests on MSC Opera or MSC Lirica can sample traditional family recipes from 'La Cucina Italiana' or savor delights from around the world, knowing they are prepared fresh onboard from only the freshest ingredients," says Sasso.

MSC Cruises has taken several steps to maintain the highest standards of food preparation, starting with taking full control of the catering operation. "In order to ensure freshness, we have set up a warehouse and local suppliers to restock the ships. While we still have many products imported from Italy, this assures the finest quality of fresh products for both sides of the Atlantic," says Robert Keesler, vice president Hotel and Marine Operations U.S. for MSC Cruises.

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