This was our first ever cruise and having read some awful reviews about MSC Armonia, I was dreading this but the price was just too tempting. Besides I had booked directly with MSC and the sales agent was really helpful and prompt in his response. I shot him at least 50 emails before and after booking and he replied promptly each and every time.
Now on to the cruise...We had opted for the fly n cruise option. MSC executives were waiting outside Venice airport and we spotted them easily. We were asked to wait in a waiting area which was just outside the airport terminal. After about 10 mins or so we were all asked to walk to the bus accompanied by few executives. They sat us in the bus and explained to us the embarkation procedure. The transfer to the cruise terminal is about 20 min bus ride. On arriving there, they walked us through and we were told to leave our luggage and check in. Again check in was simple and quick and embarkation started in about 20 min. We wanted to visit Venice and there were people to explain to us how to get there and places to see.
The ship was neat and clean. I was told it is fairly small. However it was our first cruise and I did not have anything to compare with so I cannot comment on that. Ours was an inside room; it was a bit on the small side but then we hardly spent any time in the room. It was a bit dated but neat and clean. The only thing I did not like about it was that shower area is a bit small and no matter how small you are, you cannot prevent the shower curtain from sticking to you. Apart from that, no complains.
We had gone for the all inclusive option at £20 per person per day and it is well worth the money. It includes red, white, rose' and sparkling wines, more than 10 cocktails, a wide range of spirits, ice creams, fresh juices, canned juices fizzy drinks, water, smoothies, drinks from the vitamin bar. A very very wide range indeed. Besides, you do not pay the 15% service charge you would pay otherwise. Drinks are priced at the same rate at any restaurant in the UK so even if you had 3 drinks and a bottle of water, the all inclusive option is worth going for.
We had taken second seating which starts at 9pm. The service of the staff especially of those in the al a carte restaurant (Marco Polo) was really good. The guy serving us was called Deyan and he was from Bulgaria. He was a star!! Such a nice guy! When he came to know we were vegetarians, he went and spoke to the head chef and from the next night onwards, we got special vegetarian Indian dinner which obviously was not even on the menu. We were the only 2 Indian passengers among 1500 on board and to be given that kind of service, we were really touched. I cannot fault those guys. They did not have to do that. There were other vegetarian options on the menu.
Even in the various bars, as soon as you finish a drink, they come to you to take your next order in spite of knowing we were all inclusive. I had thought we would be treated differently but that was not the case. Their service is really good!
I read people moaning about how crowded the buffet gets. It does but what do you expect during peak hours? The buffet has many options to choose from (though not that many for us) but there's fries and pizza all day. They serve pizza from 12 pm till 11 pm I think and it was good - no complains.
The pool area some people say place is a bit noisy with music playing all the time. I don't know what else to expect. It was good with music playing, for us at least. The pool is a little small and the water seemed quite cold even in Aug when the temperature was almost 30 deg or more. But that is me; I can't stand cold. There are 2 Jacuzzis and there is an attendant all the time to make sure that everyone gets the chance to use it.
The entertainment The entertainment team is pretty good. There are people on the ship who come from different countries and speak different languages so they have to make sure that it appeals to people from everywhere. They did a good job. Also the evening shows'we attended it only once and it was really good.
Now to the excursions the cruise excursions are a bit on the expensive side. It's worth mentioning though that the excursions have nothing to do with MSC. I presume it has been outsourced. We took one excursion in Gythion to a beach which was for around 15 and two transfers - one in Dubrovnik to the old town for 11 and another in Corfu to the town for around 9. Old town in Kotor, Montenegro is literally few yards from the port. We did not go out in Ancona and in Cefalonia. We were having a good time on the ship.
If I had to complain about something, it would be the disembarkation. We had to vacate our rooms by 8 am or so but disembarkation did not begin until 11.30. That's so many hours of doing nothing. We had slept late the previous night (wanted to make the most of our time and not waste it sleeping) and then woke up early. Then once we disembarked, we thought we will be able to get on to the bus. But we had to wait for more than 2 hours and no one to let us know how much longer it was going to be. I was getting worried as our flight was at 4 pm or so. But eventually the bus arrived and dropped us. If I had to fault anything, it would be this.
Apart from this little thing, this was a fabulous holiday.