Having read several reviews about the Magnifica and MSC before departing on our cruise, I have to confess that I was somewhat worried. However, comparing to previous cruises that I have been on with P&O (Venturer) and Royal Caribbean (Allure of The Seas), I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. This said, perhaps my expectations had been lowered and the fact that I only had to pay the tax for my children (having booked in Cruise Week in 2012 and taken advantage of the 'kids go free deal') probably helped.
So starting from scratch.
Booking and liaising with MSC staff prior to the cruise - I cannot rate the person that I spoke to and dealt with throughout (Lee Moulton) enough. Very helpful indeed and made my preparation for the holiday very easy.
Embarkation at Genoa - We took our own flights so cannot comment on transfers but the embarkation at Genoa was very easy and straight forward. No issues whatsoever.
The Ship - Whilst being smaller than other ships that I have sailed on (especially the Allure of the Seas) I have to say that the ship felt more personal but was still fitted out to a high spec. and seemed clean and up to date. The many bars were always well presented and generally lively, the theatre was impressive, the spa was very good (albeit a tad on the expensive side - tip here; if you are thinking of having a spa treatment wait until the end of your cruise as discounts of up to 50% are available), the two pools were always well presented and generally accessible as were the numerous hot tubs dotted around the ship.
The Cabin - We opted for a family suite and whilst not being as fancy as the suite we had on the Allure and much less fancy than the suite that we had on the Venturer, it was large enough and more than adequate. Perhaps it was a little Ikea-ish but seeing as this was half the price that we paid on P&O and a third of the price that we paid on the Allure (ok - that did include flights) we were more than happy.
The staff - I have read several reviews mentioning that if you spoke English you were treated as a second rate guest by the crew. My experience was the exact opposite. Most of the crew that we encountered were Brazilian, Ukrainian ans Indonesian (amongst several others) and in most instances they almost sighed with relief when we spoke in English as in many cases this was their second language. Pretty much all the staff that we dealt with (especially our cabin maid) were lovely and very helpful but then I always make sure that I engage with the staff and find out a little about them instead of just expecting them to serve me.
Restaurants - Unfortunately on this point I do have to agree with some other reviews that the food was a little bland and the options limited especially when compared to the ships that I have sailed on before but the food was plentiful and certainly edible! (if you could get to it in the stampede).
Drinks - Again many reviews mention that the drinks were overly expensive and that you do not get anything for free. I agree that having to pay for water at dinner is a little excessive but I found the drinks in general to be reasonably priced especially compared to the Allure which was extortionate once the 18% service charge had been added on to each drink. However, I do work in London and amused to paying well over £4 for a pint. If like me, you like a drink, go for the Allegressimo package. I certainly got my moneys worth!
Excursions - MSC run many excursions but they are very expensive. In most ports there will be buses, tour operators and cabs that will be willing to take you to the same destinations offered by MSC at a fraction of the price. The only excursion that we did do via MSC was the tour of the Vatican but that was only so that we could avoid the massive queues but for the four of us two kids and two adults, the price was almost EUR 250! When you get your entry ticket and see that the fee to get in to the Vatican is only EUR 11, it kinda leaves a bad taste... although to be fair, we did have a guide and the transfer from the port was quite a distance. We undertook all other excursions on our own and had no problems (despite not going via MSC) and paid a fraction of the price that MSC were charging.
Entertainment - Unfortunately for us, we were spoilt with regard to entertainment in 2012 when we travelled on the Allure which is pretty much Disney, Broadway and Universal all rolled in to one, on water. Each evening on the Magnifica there was a show which lasted about 45 mins and whilst the entertainers were generally good, it all got a little 'samey' after a couple of nights. My daughter was happy to go along (aged 7) every night and enjoyed the singing, dancing and acrobatics but for the rest of us it became a bit of a chore if I am honest. Also some of the bars do seem a bit like Schlagerfest playing 1970's German music quite regularly but the dance floors were usually full so if the majority are happy, it is unfair of me to criticise - it just wasn't to my taste. However, the 'disco' played up to date music and was fun although it did start very late.
The only real down side that I have with the Magnifica is the other passengers. I just cannot understand why certain Europeans (not all as we met some very, very lovely people) are so blatantly rude, do not understand the concept of queuing and can be completely disrespectful. I could quote numerous instances but the one that springs to mind and nearly ended up in a situation was when my daughter was happily putting a couple of cookies on to her plate using the tongs provided when an belligerent, large Italian man snatched the tongs out of her hand. Usually I am very calm tempered and accept that not everyone has manners the same as me but this was too much so in this instance I had to be rude and snatched the tongs back much to his surprise. However, this isn't something that is MSC's fault or is anything to do with the Magnifica just beware that in order to survive the regular feeding frenzy (or queueing for anything) you may have to stick up for yourself a little.
Summary - I personally found the Magnifica to be a lovely ship, the crew were lovely and for the amount I paid, I found it to be exceptional value so much so that I have already booked another cruise with MSC next year so hopefully that tells you all you need to know.