I'll start by saying MSC in general is a 4 yr old Italian based cruise line that knows very little about servicing American passengers. With 17 cruises aboard 5 various cruiselines under my belt, I'd say MSC on a whole could best be described as Italy's version of Carnival in its early days without the glitz: cheap, adequate, and catering not to the young party crowd but instead older Italian families and children.
This was the strangest cruise I've ever taken !! The Armonia was clean and simple in its decor with the feel of an average business hotel, however, we had BY FAR our worst onboard experience ever (which I'll detail later), and BY FAR our best itinerary and ports of call ever. This review should help prepare you in many ways.
I'll start with the ports. Embarkation is in Venice and I strongly recommend arriving 2-3 days early or stay 2-3 days in Venice upon returning. There aren't enough adjectives to describe Venice; Romantic, charming, historic, unique, etc. You will do yourself a tremendous injustice if you don't afford yourself the opportunity to walk the many alleyways and canals this magical city has to offer.
From Marco Polo Intl Airport the Blue Express Shuttle Bus takes you directly to the Piazza La Roma for 3 euros. This Bus/taxi depot is the main entrance point into the Grand Canal and the entire city of Venice. It's awesome because you'll see no cars anywhere in the entire city, only water taxi's, Vaporetti's, and Gondolas. With a 1-3 day water taxi pass you can ride all the canals of Venice including the numerous surrounding Islands. The cruise port is less than 1/2 mile from Piazza La Roma (walking distance)yet it's a 15 euro taxi fare! The ports of call are as follows: Bari Italy, Corfu Greece, Sanorini Greece, Athens Greece, Katakolon Greece, and Dubrovnik Croatia. DO NOT run yourself ragged trying to hit every port because 6 ports in 7 days is not the norm and you'll need a vacation from the vacation if you're not careful !! The 2 Ports I recommend skipping are Bari and Dubrovnik. Enjoy the emptiness of the ship at these Ports and get yourself some R&R. The ship only has 2 small Jacuzzi's and they stay packed except while in port. Another tip: Get some rest the night of Corfu because the 2 best ports, Santorini and Athens, come back to back with a formal night in Santorini. Corfu was a total shock to me! It's a large Island with a great city port and beautiful beaches and coves. One day isn't enough to properly see it.
In Santorini we took the Eio village tour and I highly recommend it as Eio is a ways from the ship. One of the most lovely towns in the world. Athens and the Parthenon were simply amazing!! Katakolon was mountainous, green and fertile. Reminded us of Kauii. Dubrovnik, I recommend you relax on the ship. As for the ship itself, here are some invaluable tips: #1- If you're a couple, see the Maitre'd as soon as you board (1PM) and reserve a 2 seater table (only 6)otherwise you may get stuck at a 6-10 seater with folks that don't speak English. Rm svc there's a charge for everything. #2 Bring a Portable DVD player with 10 videos!! No englis- h tv channels.#3- bring a small iron. #4- request face cloth/robes . #5-buy liquor in Venice, bring onboard, and save a ton! #6- Don't expect good entertainment (all Italian). #7- ask steward to pad your matress with blankets under the sheets. The mattresses are like concrete! OK, after all these warnings, I would still HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS CRUISE if you can get it for $800 or less p/p. $1,200 - $2,000 go with Celebrity, Princess, or RCCL. We found a great price for $650 p/p and the ports alone made this cruise worthwhile and very enjoyable because we were prepared for the numerous onboard shortfalls and now, so are you !! Have fun and savour the beauty and history!!!