A restored city centre full historic buildings
Olinda, a maze of cobbled streets
Igarassu, the second-oldest city in Brazil

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The old-European style Barrio

Let your MSC cruise take you to north-eastern Brazil’s largest metropolitan area, Recife, a dynamic, sprawling city of over four million with a booming economy and two major ports. The city centre – the three islands of Santo Antônio, Boa Vista and Bairro do Recife – is a compelling mix, once you get used to it (a bit like Rio’s old downtown).

The city centre is completely safe and the regenerated Bairro do Recife area in particular is a real gem, more akin to belle époque Europe than to the rest of Brazil.

Most of its middle class lives in the beachside district of Boa Viagem, a forest of high-rise condos and beach hotels to the south, though it’s not as much of a resort area as Maceió – while shopping malls and businesses have moved out here, it remains a residential area at heart.

Olinda is, quite simply, one of the largest and most beautiful complexes of colonial architecture in Brazil, and is just waiting to be admired on an MSC South America cruise excursion. It’s a maze of cobbled streets, hills crowned with brilliant white churches, pastel-coloured houses, Baroque fountains and graceful plazas.

MSC South America cruises also offer excursions to Igarassu. The second-oldest city in Brazil, 32km north of Recife, was founded by the Portuguese in 1537 on a ridge rising out of a sea of palm trees: the name means “great canoe” in the language of the Tupi Indians, the cry that went up when they first saw the Portuguese galleons.

Though it’s nothing like Olinda, a few relics of its past remain in the historic centre (Sítio Histórico de Igarassu); for example, the modest Igreja dos Santos Cosme e Damião, the oldest church in Brazil, is still there on the ridge (the first church was founded in 1535, but this one dates to the 1590s).

Must see places in Recife

Discover our excursions

2 results found


    • Long route by bus

    • Limited seats

    • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

      Difficulty Level

    • Duration
      3 h

    • AdultsR759Price per person

    • ChildrenR485Price per person


    This excursion is one of the best ways to see Recife. Nicknamed the “Brazilian Venice” because of its numerous canals and waterways, Recife is a major gateway on the north-eastern coast and the capital of the state of Pernambuco. This lively city is famous for its beaches and Afro-Brazilian culture. On board an uncovered boat we will start a visit of the city along the Capibaribe River with a chance to admire Recife from a completely different perspective. The excursion will also include a stop at “Casa da Cultura”, a former jailhouse that has become a cultural center and a shopping complex with 110 stores full of souvenirs. Please note: We advise guests to wear hats and sun lotion as the boat has no roof - Limited seats, book early to avoid disappointment. This excursion will not be cancelled due to weather conditions (rain).
  • Van with driver & tour guide (9

    • Limited seats

    • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

      Difficulty Level

    • Duration
      4 h

    • AdultsR6749Price per person

    • ChildrenR6749Price per person


    Disembark in the port and have a vehicle with a professional driver waiting for you, your family and friends. Create your own tour and enjoy your day with a vehicle at your disposal. Please note: Vehicle, driver and gasoline included up to 150kms, it does not include tickets to any touristy attraction or lunch. The advertised price for this service is per vehicle, not per passenger. This service is available with or without a tour guide, depending on availability. The driver speaks only Portuguese and the tour guide (if requested) speaks English or Portuguese. The service without tour guide is not available for Grand Voyages. The departure of service can be requested for any time during the time call. Service not available to Porto de Galinhas. Service without tour guide is not available for Grand Voyages.

The excursions in the programme above are intended to provide MSC Guests with an idea of the different tours that can be arranged in each port of call; this programme is merely a guide and confirmation of each excursion and its description and prices will be made during your cruise. 
Shore excursions programs and itineraries may vary depending on local conditions and/or any unforeseen events in relation to the timing on the day of the tour.
Some excursions are very popular and therefore availability cannot always be guaranteed, it is advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment. The guides are guaranteed in English. Only for South America cruises, the guides are guaranteed in Brazilian Portuguese. Narration in other languages depends on the availability of guides. Please note that the final language of the tour will be confirmed on board during the cruise.

North Brazil

Nature reserves and colonial atmospheres
Nature reserves and colonial atmospheres

Brazil’s north-east has definitely benefited from the nation’s economic boom and is now a region on the rise.

Despite having the most dazzling coastline in South America, a buzzing beach scene and an exuberant culture that blends samba, reggae and African influences, the area, divided politically into eight separate states, has not been spoilt by tourism. 

A cruise to Brazil’s north-east will show you the major cities along the coast: some, such as Recife, Olinda, São Luís and Fortaleza, have a deep colonial heritage; others, such as Maceió and Natal, have developed mostly in recent decades. All of these cities have their own city beaches plus more idyllic and deserted resorts hidden up and down the coast. The Ilha de Fernando de Noronha, hundreds of kilometres offshore, is one of the finest oceanic wildlife reserves in the world, an expensive destination but perfect for ecotourism.

The smallest Brazilian states and long ignored by travellers, Alagoas and Sergipe have developed rapidly in recent years. Though lacking the romance of Rio and Salvador, the two state capitals of Maceió and Aracaju offer fine beaches and a smattering of history, while some genuinely well-preserved colonial towns are a short bus ride away.