My husband & I have cruised with MSC 2 times: the MSC Fantasia & the Divina. We enjoyed both vacations very much. The cruise line does an extremely good job of maintaining and cleaning their ships and presenting fresh food in the major eating areas. The downside is that some of the passengers are just downright rude, e.g. bump into you and not say excuse me, try to hoard and reserve deck chairs when no one's in them; talking in loud voices unnecessarily, allowing their children to accompany them into adults-only areas and misbehave.
The staff in general have not been properly trained in customer service. Given the international nature of the passengers, they may think they do not need to learn or attempt to speak English, but this is the international language, and one they may rely upon to communicate effectively with most passengers. The majority of the staff do smile or go out of their way to provide outstanding service; rather, service was perfunctory, except for our cabin steward and our server in the formal dining area who were outstanding.
We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in Tessera, which is near the Marco Polo Airport in Venice. The city of Venice is accessible by city bus, but takes between 30 to 50 minutes to get there via bus and then water taxi (valporetti), depending on the traffic. We went stayed 3 nights and went into Venice 2 times, so we purchased a city pass for both. The hotel provided our transfer to the Venice Cruise Terminal and breakfast as part of a special package rate. Recommended local restaurant: Al Quadrante: a pizza place that serves other Italian dishes, and it's GREAT! The pizza was not oily and the crust was out of this world. My pasta dish was also delicious.
We did not partake in the onboard activities, except for frequenting the casino, which was our major form of evening entertainment. Given the fact we were there every night of the cruise, one would have thought that the casino/bar staff and servers would recognize us and personalize their service; however, this did not happen. These are the little touches that one misses on MSC, whereas when one has experienced outstanding customer service, the experience is much more positive. A 7 euro gratuity is automatically charged each day, so there is no individual tipping.
The food in the main Dining Room: The Black Crab was hit or miss. The pasta & soups & desserts were the best; the meats were not good: gizzly & flavorless. Be sure to order 4-5 courses so that you have enough to eat compared to American standards.
On our first cruise we did not attend a single show; this time, on the Divina, our daughter & son-in-law went to one of the shows and raved about it, so we attend the remaining ones. Caberet quality with lipsynching and live singing. Some outstanding indivdual performances, but overall, just OK. However, we're glad we went (full houses all nights).
Disembarkation went smoothly; however, we purchased the transfer from the boat to the Airport and we had to wait in the heat for over an hour for the MSC bus to arrive. We decided that we should have paid a bit more and left via taxi because it cut our duty-free shopping time short.