My husband, myself and our 14 year old daughter booked a back to back cruise of the western and eastern mediteranean. This was our 2nd cruise. We booked with MSC mainly due to the good price. The first ship we embarked on was the Divina, the second the Splendida.
We loved both the ships, they were bright, spotlessly clean and just so beautiful. If I had to chose one, I would choose the Divina though, mainly due to the nicer colours used and it being just a little bit newer! Our balcony room was great, perfectly adequate space for the 3 of us. It was cleaned twice a day by our lovely cabin man Aurelio (Divina). He surprised us one day with a lovely towel animal, so we did one back for him - a long towel snake with paper eyes and ribbon tongue! After this he just got better and better, with one day us even finding a monkey hanging from a coathanger on the ceiling!
Took us a day or so to get used to the layout of the ship, but once we had it, it was easy to get about.
We ate mainly in the restaurant, which was very beautiful and we had two lovely waiters who catered to our every need. The food was always nice and warm and beautifully presented. I felt that the food was probably catered for 'the masses' in that it was never very spicey and never had very strong flavours, but I think that is what you need to do to suit the majority of people. We did enjoy everything that we ate. There was a big selection of entree, soup, salad, main plate, pasta or risotto, desert, cheeseboard etc etc. There is no way anybody could say they were hungry or that there wasn't enough selection! Our waiters on the Splendida, Wayan and Putu, were gorgeous and loved to talk a few words in Indonesian with us!! All the bar staff were also very attentive and it was no problem to order a drink.
We did occasionally eat in the buffet. This area was very busy but we did always manage to find a table within about 5 minutes. There was plenty of very quick easy food just in the main entrances, eg. hamburgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, pizzas etc. for those wanting a quick snack around the pool. There was also of course selections of pasta, meats, salads, fish, ethnic foods and deserts. It could sometimes be a little difficult to move from station to station holding a plate and a drink and cutlery as the walkways were busy with people doing the same thing. We noticed a lot of food wasteage on the tables, I think people just put too much on their plates!! I have been told by others that this happens on most cruise lines tho!
We did go to most of the shows and we really enjoyed them. The entertainment team and the stage entertainers were spectacular! We thought they were a little better on the Divina than the Splendida!! The shows only go for about 40 minutes, which was just perfect. We really enjoyed some of the Italian opera singing - something that I wouldn't go and see if it was a 2 hour show, but the 40 minutes was so enjoyable, and you knew that even if you didn't enjoy the show that night, it wouldn't take the whole night!! There was also the Michael Jackson show, a pirate show, a hand shadow show, acrobatic shows, dancing shows, singing etc. etc. All spectacular!
We did a couple of excursions, Ephesus, Tunisia and Rome on your own. They were very well organised, you received your tickets about a day or so before, it told you what time and location to be at, then you just registered at the desk and were given a number. When your tour number was called, you followed your leader out of the ship to your bus to meet the tour guide. Simple!! The tour in Ephesus was a little difficult as there were 39 people in the group, and we didn't have the ear pieces, so had to try and get in close to hear the guide. Was okay, you just needed to make sure you stayed close! The sights were amazing. Was a little sad seeing some of the cats and dogs in poor condition. In Tunisia our guide would give us a bit of a run down of the area and then give us free time to explore and tell us where and what time to meet, this worked very well. Rome on your own was easy, they provided transport to and from Rome. We ended up at the 'go home point' about 40 minutes early, and they had buses there already and started departing early, so that was nice after such a busy day walking Rome!
You could catch a MSC shuttle bus from the ship into the main centre of each destination, but the costs all added up, so we usually just made out own way, either by walking, public transport or taxi. Unfortunately MSC don't let you know about any of the free services the port might provide, eg. I think it was in Marseille that there is a free bus service from the port into town every half hour, but we only found out about it from the taxi driver (taxi cost 30 euro)!! Probably best to do a little research before you cruise to know the best way to get into each location centre.
We enjoyed time spent in the hot whirlpools, swimming pools and also just lounging by the pool. The hot whirlpools were very hot! I think they were 37 degrees. This was good, because you couldn't spend too much time in them, so there was a high turnover of people in them, which meant you could always get into one without too much 'hanging around'! The pool water was quite cold, so only my daughter and husband went in the pools, but they were never over busy. The 'zen' pool at the back of the ship was a lovely area. It is adults only, but our 14 year old was never stopped. She was always nice and quiet though, so not a noisy teen! In fact the only one of us to 'get into trouble' was my husband, who jumped straight in instead of entering the water quietly (it wasn't a big bomby!), and was told off! That was good though, as it meant the staff were keeping the area nice and quiet, ha ha!! The bigger pool in the middle always had plenty of activity around, some games, music and dancing all organised by the entertainment team - was fun to watch! We never used the indoor pool area.
Sometimes you had to walk around a little to find a couple of pool lounges together, but was never too difficult. Only day that was hard was the sea day. Benefit of a balcony was that we always had sometime to go and sit quietly if we needed.
There were plenty of areas and bars to enjoy a drink or a quiet time. We had the Allegrissimo drinks package. It was definately worth it, as we drank more than what the package had cost. Although we both said that we were not sure that we would get it again, as we felt it made us drink more to get our moneys worth! The price of drinks on board were reasonable, and we probably would have spent less than the package cost if we were drinking 'normally' eg. just a wine with a meal and maybe a cocktail in the afternoon or evening. You could get free coffee, tea and water in the buffet area.
We didn't have any trouble with big groups of teenagers or yelling kids, maybe because they were all back at school only the fortnight before. Our 14 year old tried on a few occasions to see if anything was happening in the youth area, but there never seemed to be much or anyone there. That made it a little bit hard for her, as she was really hoping to meet other young ones. The italian kids seemed to be made up of big family or friend groups, so they seemed to keep to their own little groups. Of course the language would be a bit of a barrier too. Our last cruise (P&O) we never saw her, and had to make her come to lunch and dinner with us, after which she was just itching to get back to the kids club!! If I was travelling with young children I would definately consider this as a negative with MSC. There didn't seem to be as many activities for the adults as well, if that is important to you. We were just happy to do our own thing, so this wasn't too much of a concern to us.
On every other level, we were totally happy with MSC, their staff and their organisation. The ships (Divina and Splendida) were beautiful. The ports visited were wonderful. Would we use MSC again? Definately if we were looking for a good family holiday for a good budget price and weren't too worried about the use of kids clubs.
Hope this all makes sense, am typing with jetlag, so not sure!!
Enjoy your cruise with MSC, because we certainly did!!