I don't really understand the naysayers here - cruise was fantastic - but when you have a clientele that moan to staff about shops in Spain being closed on a Sunday so they won't get off at Bilbao "because there's nothing to do," perhaps I can appreciate it a little...
Embarkation was super efficient, was enjoying a drink and a bite to eat about 45 mins after arriving at Southampton. Had an outside cabin at the back of the ship on level 10, underneath the buffet. Couldn't hear any noise at all and very handy for an early morning cup of tea!
Cabin was compact but plenty of room for the 4 of us (kids of 7 and 6). I am on the larger side both vertically and horizontally but could fit in the shower no problem. Housekeeping was excellent and our chap was very friendly and approachable and made a few towel animals to keep the children entertained.
We ate as often as possible at the restaurants (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and the food was perfectly good with plenty of variety. Portions were smallish but it's an Italian boat and they like plenty of smaller dishes so that was to be expected.
I felt that the service was excellent at all times. Perhaps the secret is to treat the staff as human beings rather than slaves and you might have a better time - I have to admit that I was pretty shocked at how some fellow travellers spoke to them.
We had three gala nights on Board. Some in black tie for dinner, most smartly dressed. I would say it is worth the effort as it makes it a special occasion. Get practising waving napkins as well. They do have themed nights to make sure you pack something white, and in the colours of the Italian flag, and 60s, 70s and 80s and "masquerade" if you want the full experience. (Don't let this put you off, varying amounts of effort are made!)
Bar service was great - spent most of the time on deck when on the boat and never had a problem. I am having trouble adjusting to not being called "Mr Julian" all the time now I'm home.
Allegrissimo package a must - I am sure we spent double the cost.
Kids enjoyed the pools and the jacuzzi. Usual nonsense about reserving sun loungers but didn't really both me.
Kids Club not quite as good as I have experienced before - the staff did a good job but I think that it is pretty difficult to keep a number of nationalities happy at the same time.
Gym was ok - enough to work off some of the food and booze. My wife had a massage (they do loads of offers so don't pay full price, wait a little!) which she thought was great.
Entertainment team were great. We enjoyed (and won most of!) the quizzes, and have a nice collection of MSC cd cases, t shirts and other odd bits. Their pool games were a bit silly but most were fun. They were very approachable and happy to chat which was great - nice to hear a bit more about what goes on on these boats.
Saw a couple of the shows. My parents and daughter went to most and enjoyed them. I have to quibble about some of the icons of rock and pop - can't argue with Elvis or Freddy Mercury at a push, but Gloria Gaynor, the Weather Girls and the Village People is pushing the definition a bit.
Excursions - stupidly expensive. You can do most of the cities on your own.
IJumuiden - might be worth getting the shuttle bus to the hydrofoil (you could walk or get a bus but...) but don't buy the tickets off at the terminal as they mark them up a few Euros. You can buy them from a machine at the jetty which has an english setting.
Guernsey - you can get a local bus pass for 9 for a family of 4 (on the bus) and can potter about if you want. Although take the timetables with a pinch of salt and get there ten minutes early. St Peter Port is a nice little place for a wander around.
Vigo - Not the most attractive place, but you can walk into the centre of town by heading up straight past the shopping centre at the port and will find yourself neat to the main church. We headed straight up to the park and castle, and 2 of the 6 of us made it all the way and it was lovely with great views. The Iron Age village was an unexpected treat (I sound quite sad but I like that kind of thing!). If you are a fan of large fish processing plants you'll be in heaven if you turn left off the boat! Maybe the excursion to Santiago De Compostela is the only one I would think about doing on the cruise.
Lisbon - Wonderful. Not enough time sadly. Metro station just by the boat if you want to travel further afield (Belem for example) with an all day pass 6 Euro for metro, trams and buses. But you can easily walk most of it. The Cathedral is great. Baxia is worth a wander around. Somewhere I will head back to for sure.
Bilbao - Nothing to do if the shops are shut....unless you count to Guggenheim, a lovely riverside and a atmospheric old town. Got the shuttle bus which is a bit expensive I suppose but drops you dead centre and everything is within a short walk. We dedicated most of our time to the Guggenheim and then had a stroll to the old town. Didn't really miss not being able to buy any tat from the shops. Must be me.
Le Harve - Free shuttle bus into town. The Hotel de Ville (and square) and St Josephs Church are well worth a look. The Church is amazing inside.
All in all a great family holiday and I wouldn't hesitate to go with them again. Some of it is a bit cheesy but go with the right attitude and you'll have a ball.