This was our honeymoon and 1st cruise experience. We, as many people do, selected this cruise for numerous reasons, the most important being the itinerary and cuisine.
Absolutely amazing! We started in Bari. We didn't spend anytime exploring as we were exhausted from the long flights over to Italy. We didn't do an excursion in Katakolon. We walked around and found a great restaurant down by the beach where we had amazing food. My absolute favorite port was Santorini. It was everything the pictures show - amazingly beautiful! We did the Oia Village excursion (about 4 hrs) here and loved it. It was great to see the traditional white houses with blue roofs and stop in at a local winery with amazing views of the sea. Mykonos was another favorite. We were there at night and were able to catch the sunset. In Athens, we did the Athens & Acropolis tour (4.5 hrs). We enjoyed this tour. Corfu and Dubrovnik were both very beautiful places. We wandered around and enjoyed having our own schedule. Venice was the longest port. I had been to Venice before but it's always beautiful and we enjoyed our time there.
The excursions were expensive (59 euro/pp for Santorini and 62 euro/pp in Athens) but we were very happy with the ones we participated in. I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Europe, living there for a while, and found that the best experiences were ones you stumbled upon on your own by simply wandering around. I don't enjoy tons of tour groups so we were very happy with our choice to follow our own schedule most of the time.
Absolutely horrible. My husband and I expected the food to be amazing considering this is a European cruiseline. As I said before, I have experienced the best of the best when it comes to Italian food and this was absolutely awful.
The first huge let down was the timing of when food was actually available. After getting on the ship, flying all the way from Washington State in the US the day after our wedding, we were exhausted, hungry and tired. Much to our surprise, NOTHING was open. We had to wait for 3 hours for anything to open up. We were starved! We then realized that not only did we have to wait for a place to open, we ended up getting the late dining time (opposite of what I requested online) and couldn't eat at the restaurant until 9pm. We decided to go to the buffet because we were so hungry.
BUFFETS - worse than a grade school cafeteria! The breakfast buffet was the best (if you can call it that) of the 3 buffets. You could choose from yogurt (very good), scrambled eggs, omelets - a fried egg folded with nothing in it, fried eggs, a ton of plain bread slices, cheese and meat slices where the only cheese that actually tasted like it was supposed to was Swiss, pastries (plain croissants, chocolate croissants, jelly croissants) and fruit which was a no-go half of the time. It was if they tried to fill the space in the buffet with condiments like jelly, butter, etc. They had juices and coffee. We never tried any juice, only the coffee which wasn't great.
The lunch and dinner buffets were pretty similar. The food was bland. The lettuce for the 'salad' was wilted around the edges half the time. They had watered down Italian dressing and strange salad additives such as lentils. All lunch buffets had hot dogs, over cooked hamburger patties and french fries. They had what they called 'ethnic food' selections which were strange mixed dishes. Some had meat in them that had about 1/4 of an inch of actual meat while the rest was either fat or gristle. Disgusting. There were empty tortillas in the buffet lines as well. Soup was tasteless. The cutting station had roast beef that was over cooked. We literally dreaded the thought of having to find something edible on the ship.
SIT DOWN DINNERS: There were 2 restaurants that served as the sit down dinners. Both served the same thing. Again, bland and tasteless dishes that did not taste like what they actually were. My husband ordered the cheese plate one night. The pieces of cheese were tiny. I tasted the goat cheese and it was absolutely flavorless. The only thing that was good was the ice cream for dessert. They made a big presentation the last formal night about the baked alaskan dessert which was mediocre. We only went to the dining rooms twice for each formal night. Our waiter at the restaurant was the friendliest person we encountered on the ship.
There were two other restaurants on the ship. One was for sushi and the other was a specialty one, both of which you had to pay for. They were expensive and our thought was that if the other food was that bad, we definitely didn't want to fork out more money for another crappy meal. We ordered room service for the pizza one night and it was actually edible. Still, it was NO typical Italian pizza that you would expect from the cruise line.
If you're cruising for the food or expect this European cruise to have great or even edible food, DO NOT GO ON THIS CRUISE!!!! This was our biggest complaint of the entire ship.
RANDOM ITEMS: 15% service charge on any items you had to pay for - drinks, snacks, etc. The service was horrible. The staff did speak English but when I asked about things, they simply gave you an answer but never explained anything so you could actually understand. I tried to make an international call and called the reception to get assistance and she snipped at me. We were also requested to come down to the desk and they gave us a water package (you have to pay for your own water on the ship) that we didn't order. I inquired about why we received this as we didn't pay for it. She snapped back saying 'well now you have water' but never explained if we had to pay for it or not.
Each day you're charged a 7 euro/pp surcharge. This definitely adds up at the end. We rarely ordered anything in the ship other than a few cappuccinos and a beer that was watered down and flavorless.
What we have always heard about cruises was that people go on them for the cuisine. If you're at all interested in great cuisine while on vacation, don't make the mistake we did. Do NOT choose MSC. The experience has definitely ruined our desire to go on any cruise in the future. The only thing we were happy with was the time spent off the ship in all the amazingly beautiful ports. Other than that, we wished we would have chosen a different cruise line for our 1st cruise and our honeymoon.