we had sailed with MSC before but never on the Fantasia - the ship is massive, beautiful, spotless and has a really good choice of bars and lounges.
Embarcation - we had flights organised by MSC from Gatwick to Venice (BA - result!) and then transfer bus from the airport. we hit the ship at the busiest possible time as all the transfer busses were arriving and there were really long queues, seemed really chaotic (nowhere near as calm and relaxing as our previous cruise out of Southampton)! I know that others who arrived earlier and later got on quickly with no issues though........ timing is everything.
Pools: there are 3 public pool areas, the main Aquaparc is brill for young kids as there are lots of little shallow splash pools with water fountains, etc as well as the deeper pool and jacuzzis. there is also another pool/shallow paddling area and jacuzzis which are under a retractable roof which is great for when the weather isnt so great. finally, right at the back of the ship there is the Zen pool area which is more of a quiet pool with jacuzzis and sunbathing more for grown-ups. Finally, there is a tube-water-slide by the kids club that the kids can play on - its open for a few hours in the morning then again in the afternoon.
It was annoying that other (Italian!) passengers reserved loungers with towels first thing in the morning, then went off on Port visits for hours, and came back to claim their sun loungers. I think it woudl be better if the pool attendants enforced the rule of clearing loungers left unnatended for those actually using the pool at the time. Having said that, we always managed to find somewhere to park ourselves.
Eating: the Zanzibar buffet is massive with stations stretching right the way back to the rear of the ship - top tip is to head straight for the back during busy times to avoid the worst queues. selection of food throughout the day and evening is brilliant and constantly replenished. best to avoid peak times (breakfast on disembarkation day was pretty mad) but other than that was really fine. Our formal restaurant was the Red Velvet, the staff were really lovely, particularly with the kids (ok, they could sometimes be a bit slow or forget to bring your wine, etc but if you remind them they apologise and get right on it!). Quality is really good considering the sheer number of people they are trying to serve at any one time. there are also so many courses (7?)that you will always find 3 or 4 things on the menu minimum that are to your taste. some of the 'surprise desserts' with music and napkin waving were good fun and made those meals a bit more special.
Drinking - so many bars and lounges! you will always find one to fit your mood.
Cabin - we were in an oceanview on the 8th floor - view straight out of the window was good but if you looked down you had a lifeboat underneath your window. I noticed that our cabin was significantly bigger than the oceanview one we had on the MSC Opera so we were chuffed with that. there was plenty storage for clothes for a family of 4 so no complaints. the invisible cabin attendants made our room look lovely for our return every time and we never seemed to see them! there were a couple of English speaking TV channels like BBC news and CBeebies which was fine.
Ports - Bari, its only a 20-ish minute walk to the old town so worth getting off the ship to see the wee narrow winding labrynth of streets, even if its just for an hour or so.
Katakolon - walkable to the 'strip of shops' and wee beach in about 15-20mins. kids ran about and played in the water which is very shallow and warm - they had great fun even though its not the prettiest of beaches. We didnt bother with Olympia as the kids werent bothered and we knew we would see lots of ruins in Athens!
Santorini - free tender to the shore, if more than one ship is in then the queues for the cable car will be horrendous if you dont get out early. we queued for over an hour in scorching heat but it was worth it as Santorini is lovely (though challenging and interesting with a buggy!! - particularly the walk back down the donkey track when the queues are too long for the cable car back down).
Pireus/Athens - we paid €20 each way for a taxi for our family of 4 which was fine, meant we could spend as much or little time as we liked in the city. we enjoyed exploring everything on foot. the taxi drivers were slightly bonkers - wear your seatbelt!
Corfu - we got the shuttle bus and enjoyed walking round corfu town which was quite charming. there isnt really a beach though so dont bother taking your swimmies.
Dubrovnik - it was raining and we still loved it. again we got a shuttle bus for about €8 per adult and explored on foot. nice to spend a couple of hours.
Venice - I hadnt believed the hype about Vencie but I was wrong. I fell in love with it as soon as I stepped of the WaterBus (you catch this at the end of the port and its €15 return). Venice is busy but absolutely beautiful. Plenty wee sandwich and ice-cream shops for lunch too. We'll definately be back without the kids one day!
In summary - we had a fantastic holiday (our best family holiday yet since having kids). MSC is brilliant value for money when you go for the algrelissimo package and the free kids places are a real bonus. I cant reccomend the MSC Fantasia highly enough for families. The only people who wouldnt like this cruise are those who dont like being around lots of kids, dont like mixing with other nationalities/languages and those who prefer 'formal' dress/dining in the evening. MSC is really relaxed and has a wide mix of guests on board - we met Italians, French, Germans, South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, Polish - a complete united nations of passengers!