Reviews seem all over the place on this one so I will do my best to alleviate some concern. You are on a ship with European passengers not American ones. You will hear Italian, German, French, and finally English. We met very few Americans so some of the bad review I think are cultural clashes. If you are some snobby American that only wants to be with Americans and don't realize that there are other cultures out there that does things differently then this is not the cruise for you. Now on to the review.
We had a great time. Let's start with the good. Our cabin was spacious and well kept. Our housekeeper would make the bed in the morning and then make it again and turn it down in the afternoon. The room was kept spotless. She was available 24 hours a day by a simple phone call. She spoke English well enough for her to understand us in all of our exchanges. Toward our last day we opted for the 20 items for 20 euro laundry package and our closed came back cleaned and pressed. More
The service in the dining room was spectacular. Dinner was a 7 course meal and you would get to choose between two items for each course and three for the entree. Also there were items they always had like a cheese plate or fish for dinner. The waiters hustle. The 7 courses is very much a European thing but everything here is flexible. Want 5 courses then just pick those. One complaint I read was that the entree is small. By American standards it is. You need to get to know your server and start conversing with him. Call him by name. OMG this takes effort for the Americans. Your server needs to converse in about 4 languages so he might not be that great in English so work with him. After a short time for the entree I was having him bring double portions on the entree, or I would have him bring two entrees on the same plate. On night we had baked Alaska so I had him bring a second one because the first one was so good. I thought the waiters were amazing. The menus also have items marked "Chef's Choice" - I never had a bad meal if I picked that. There were clunkers - about 3 in 49 courses - if it is bad just don't eat it - you won't run out of food. On person complained that all the food was cold - not true - never had a cold meal it just didn't happen. If the person got a cold meal in the dinning room why didn't he send it back and get a hot one? Breakfast in the dinning room was the same - hot - high quality and you get as much as you want. Finally - MSC has heard you Americans - you get a liter of water for every dinner free.
I thought the entertainment was very good. Maddy is the cruise director and has to repeat the intro in Italian, German, French, and English. The English part was superb. She is high energy and does a fantastic job. The acts were entertaining. They have to appeal to a wide range of audiences and they do. Most nights you have to get there early to get a seat. There was good acrobatics and singing. Most were in English. One was a little too loud (Tenor night). Some pretty cool - the tribute to Michael Jackson ended with the entire audience sing (in English no less) 'We Are The World". There was an acrobatic duo that balanced on top of the other head to head. Never saw that before.
We arrived at the ports on time and disembarkation was fairly quick. We used the shuttle MSC provided to get into town. It was fast and efficient. In the two places that didn't have shuttles, Athens and Santoriti, there was public transportation. The shuttles are extra but are worth the price. We did not do any excursions and didn't feel cheated. You have to be quick about it but there is time to see quite a bit while in each port but you won't be able to see it all. We had a good time in each port of call. We thought Bari would be boring but even there we could find something interesting to do. The rest of the ports were fantastic.
Now the bad. The buffet is almost always a madhouse. Sometimes it is difficult to find a seat. There is a wide selection of food. The food there is all over the map and that is why we preferred the dining rooms when possible. The fruit is excellent and fresh, there are usually carving stations which was usually pretty good, there is a limited supply of vegetables but usually always potatoes somewhere, the pastries were almost always dry, there is free coffee, fruit juices, water and milk for breakfast. For lunch the fruit juices are shut off. Most food though was generally hot. Most tables are in groups of 6 so you generally will have to join with someone. People don't know the meaning of a line and will sometime just cut in front of you - I think it is cultural. People will also not ask if they can sit at your table and just sit down - again I think it is cultural. It is best to avoid the buffet as much as possible. Eat breakfast and dinner in the dining hall and eat a late lunch snack when you get back from you port - this seemed to work best for us. This is not an all inclusive cruise where they have drink packages and such. But if you just drink water for dinner you can avoid all that. And of course there are other options in the buffet and at breakfast in the dining room. Eating in the dining room you will sit six to a table. Some might be uncomfortable but we sat with two New Zealanders and two Austrailians so had a jolly good time and even went with the New Zealanders to the shows at night. Also there is too much marketing going on which can get a little annoying.
If you are American I can see where some of this might be out of your comfort zone. I thought we got a great value for our dollars and was able to interact with different cultures to boot. It was fun, interesting, and I gained four pounds. Less