Last year we cruised with friends in the Western Med with MSC and had a wonderful holiday. This year, we decided to go it alone and I must admit we read some of the reviews before leaving and felt worried that we had made a mistake. How wrong can you be! We had a fantastic week and since returning have been looking at our next cruise with MSC.
We booked the fly cruise deal and were a bit disappointed that the flights were from Gatwick. This means a 4-5 hr drive to get to the airport, but we booked ourselves and the car in at the Premier Inn for the night (would recommend this hotel). A quick hop over to the terminal in the morning and we were off. We arrived in Venice and were immediately instructed to go to the MSC desk. We checked in and waited for about 10 minutes or so before taking their bus to the port. On arrival at the port, there was a lot of activity but we were moved swiftly from place to place (bag drop, check in etc). We received our cabin cards and were on the ship at 13.00. We had arrived in Venice at 11.30 and were in our cabins at 13.30, which we thought was an acceptable time.
As others have said in previous reports, the ship is beautiful and spotlessly clean. The cabins are surprisingly spacious and comfortable. We drank in many of the bars and sometimes had to wait for service because they were so busy, but mostly we chose quiet areas and were served without a problem. Our only gripe is that smoking was allowed in the casino and one of the bars and we feel that smoking should not be allowed anywhere inside the ship, but this did not mar the holiday at all as we just avoided those areas.
We had a table for 6, but only 2 other people were sat with us and we got on with them really well. In fact, I looked forward to seeing them each evening to find out what they had done during the day. The food in the restaurant was superb and we met some interesting people during breakfast and lunch. We paid for Allegrissimo and totaling up our bills when we returned home showed this to be exceptional value as coffee, water, smoothies are all included.
Yes, the buffet is busy but you can usually find somewhere to sit (I appreciate that this is easier for a couple than a family.) We didn't have any problems with the food as there is such a wide choice. We found all the staff to be friendly and helpful and didn't have any language problems.
We decided to pay the extra for the spa and wellbeing package. This gave us unlimited use of the spa every day of our cruise and a 30 min Bali massage. Again, we thought it was well worth the extra money. The spa was a fantastic place of tranquility and we would use the sauna and Turkish bath before taking our books to the relaxation area for total peace and quiet. Fab!
We did excursions in Athens and in Dubrovnik and the were very interesting, but mostly we found our own way around. There is not always a lot of time on shore and this sometimes has an impact on what you do but we are happy strolling around new places and soaking up the atmosphere.
On our last day we booked a shuttle to Venice for the day. On our return we were transported to the airport for our flight. We were there about 3 hours before our flight and as our flight was delayed we did have quite a long time in the airport. On reflection, I would book our own flights next time and might even stay overnight in the disembarkation port.
There are a lot of people on the cruise and if that is going to be a problem for you, then don't book this enormous ship. Mostly there are Europeans on the ship with Brits being very much in the minority. It's not little Britain, it's very much Italian and you have to embrace that if you cruise with these.