My wife and I are in our last of three years in Germany, we have traveled Europe by car as far as we could go. Eastern Med just isn't practical, so this cruise looked like it would hit the highlights. We started in Venice and traveled (in order) to Bari, Olympia, Imir, Istanbul, and Dbrovnic.
1. Of all the cruises we have taken, MSC had their stuff together in Venice. We walked up, dropped our bags, walked straight through the lines and were on the ship in less than 30 minutes. Our previous cruises seemed to leave you in a dark windowless terminal for hours waiting to board.
2. The dining room waiters are amazing as they always seem to be. There to make you happy. The only thing we noticed is that you seated yourself after the first night where other cruises had the Maitre'D seating you every night.
3. Entertainers were fantastic in the shows. The dancers and performers were amazing and very outgoing. If you saw them in a port, they were quite approachable and willing to chat.
4. The ship itself is immaculate. Being a new ship, this is to be expected though.
Places they missed badly:
1. MSC will nickle and dime you to death. If you want anything to drink in the dining room you must pay for it. This includes water! You should never be forced to buy table water! I don't expect Perrier with a meal, but a simple glass of water is nice. Every cruise I have taken before included water, coffee, juice, and tea with meals. This was nothing unless you ate in the buffett.
2. The buffett was a zoo. The passengers were predominately Italian, and they apparently have never eaten at a buffett before. Lines mean nothing to them. If they have a plate, they will walk in front of 20 people and help themselves to what they need. Better was the mothers who would do it and fill a plate to take back to the table where her family is waiting like she was cooking a meal for them. The most popular item at breakfast was waffles. There was always a line for them in the mornings. They had a line because they had two waffle irons that made four waffles each. This is a ship that has 2000 guests and you are making eight waffles every five minutes?
3. Smoking. If you don't like smoke, this isn't the ship for you. Smokers have their boundries, but they bleed over so bad you can't get away from them inside the ship. You can smell it in every lounge, deck and hallway. They smoke in their rooms and the air gets recirculated right back into every other reoom. They smoke by the enterances to the buffett because there is a wind break, and it goes right into the place where you are trying to eat.
4. Noise. There is no quiet place on the ship. Every lounge has an act playing crappy lounge music. I was looking for a place to read, and couldn't find a comfortable spot that wasn't singing Barry Mannilow songs 24/7.
5. Fitness facilities. Complete joke if you actually work out. If you only work out two or three times a year, you will be fine. Four stationary bikes and four treadmills. Remember...two thousand passengers, and the fitness facility isn't even open all day. Add to that the fact this is the first ship without a running track. There is one deck you could run on, but you would be fighting for the same space as deck chairs.
6. Transportation. MSC likes to dock you away from the city and charge you to shuttle to the city. It is only 6 or 10 Euro, but when you multiply that x4 at every port it adds up. If you dock away from the city, traditionally you get a coach ride for free. Thank god they tied to dock every night or you might have to swim to the shore if you didn't want to pay for a tender.
7. Excursions. Rip off. Don't take the MSC trips. If you get off the ship, there is someone at every port offering the same trip for half the price. They all speak English, so use them. On our excurion to Effusus (in Izmir), a local vendor was refusing to give me change for a 50 Euro when I bought a bag of chips. He was pulling the "you gave me a 5" routine. I called for our excursion guide and he spoke to the man in Turkish. It did little good as he said I was lying. I told the MSC employee I wanted to report it to a police officer. He said it would take too long and that we were running late. He told me if I did this I would be ruining everyones elses vacation over 50 Euro. He also told me I would be compensated back at the ship. We get back to the ship and the guy says I was making the story up! My wife and daughter were there as witnesses and he flat out lies to our faces!
8. This is an Italian cruise. There are a large number of Americans that take it since we are stationed in Europe, and a large number of British who seem to come down. They humor us with announcements in English, but you are definitely second class citizens. My teenage daughter said it was even worse in the teen program. She said the functions splintered by nationalism. The Italians kept to themselves as did the Germans, Americans, and Spanish. The only teens to break ranks were the Swiss kids and they simply did it to tell everyone how rich they were.
We thought we got a great deal on the ship initially. Our final ship bill was over 700 Euro, and my family doesn't drink alcohol. That was our mandatory tip, the one excursion to Ephesus, and two drink packages for 10 liters of water each. Make sure you add that in to your cruise cost when pricing with MSC. Looking back we could have taken Royal Caribbean for about the same price when you add in the drinks and other random expenses MSC throws at you that Royal Caribbean doesn't. As for the comments that say the food is bland...it is very typical European Italian food. Living here for two years already, we are used to it. If you are expecting Italian food to be like the Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill, you will be disappointed.