I have been on 11 previous cruises on RCCL, Carnival and NCL. It could be said, I know a little bit about low end cruises. When I read the reviews of this ship I was surprised at how many people complained about the food and service. Since I assumed the reviewers also travel on these same low end lines, I was prepared for the worst.
As many have reported, the ship is nice. Not huge, not small, just the right size. A little less Vegas/Neon tacky than I've seen on Carnival ships and little less flashy than RCCL. For a cruise ship it was pretty tasteful (with the exception of the Zebra lounge which looked like a Zebra threw up all over the room).
Cabin: Hallways and bathrooms were slightly larger than usual (not really bigger, just noticeably slightly larger). Cabin was decorated more tastefully that I expected with great sliders to the balcony (some Carnival ships have heavy doors).
Service: I find the Carnival and RCCL service a little too 'in my More
face', though I've never been offended by it. One my one NCL cruise the staff (mostly from eastern European countries) not only didn't smile at the passengers, they were downright surly on repeated occasions. I really liked the MSC service, it was there when you wanted it and not when you didn't. The crew, again mostly from eastern European countries) were happy and helpful with just the right mix of formality and familiarity. Our room steward was great, though rarely seen (and no towel animals, but we didn't' miss them). Our dining room waiter was not only a great person, but an excellent server (an expert in cutlery and other fine points of dining service). Between the other 3 lines I've been on, I have to say this is my favorite from a service point of view.
Food. It wasn't that bad. All the other lines have similar food quality but may be more skillful at artful presentation, seemingly elevating the food, but essentially of the same grade. I read many reviews describing steak that could not be cut, much less eaten and waited in awe when a gentleman from Argentina ordered a steak on the first night. My friend and I silently watched his first few cuts and after he finished the steak asked for his opinion. He said it wasn't as good as the steak in Argentina, but he found it acceptable. Personally, there were a few items on the buffet that included fillings that were unidentifiable to me. It could have been a mystery meat or mushroom duxelle. MSC should be careful to select items that can be easily identify - I think we all have a fear of 'mystery meat'. Nothing was too fancy, but there was certainly plenty of items to please almost every palate. Some surprises included great cheeses and Indian food (hidden in the back section of the buffet). Decent coffee, but their machines constantly break down (that was aggravating) and they have only small cups for hot or cold beverages.
Bottom Line: All in all, I think it was a good value and I would go back again. Less
Bathroom slightly larger than similar category on Carnival and RCCL (not really bigger, but noticeably slightly larger).
Cabin is shorter than the standard balcony cabin. Instead of a sofa/loveseat there is only one upholstered chair.
Unless you're a diver (or a banker) I'm not sure there's really much to do there but stroll downtown (estimated time needed - 1 hour). We walked, drank some fresh coconut water, ate some conch chowder and went back to the ship.
I rarely book excusions from the cruise line, but this was a fair deal and I was really glad I did it. Not only was our local guide wonderful, but one of the cruise staff came along to insure everything went smoothly. Although the cruise agent had a clipboard with tons of info to report back to the cruise line, she also took part in all the activities and was really 'one of us' during the whole experience. It was nice to know that MSC cares so much about the quality of excursions that they send agents along to insure the product delivered is exceptional. Well done.