Readers should know that this review is by a woman of a certain age who is not particularly interested in sun bathing, gambling, drinking or dancing. The ship offered all these activities and that could make a difference.
There were many good things about our trip and all we did was concentrate on them. One of the important considerations, was that this Cruise was going to Ports of Call we wanted to see. I personally would not take another trip on MSC, nor recommend it to friends my age. ( I would search for the cruise with the historic lecture the night before we saw a site, if such a cruise exists.) However, MSC would be a wonderful choice for families, or young couples ...especially adventuresome ones. We never met another American on board.
The ship was gorgeous and beautifully maintained. Our stateroom was designed by a genius because it didn't feel small and there was a place for everything. The staff was friendly and hard working but they should be compared to a hotel staff, not the staff of a smaller cruise ship. For example, one hardly knew who cleaned the stateroom. It was kept immaculate, but we never saw the person. The 7 Euro service charge was very reasonable considering 1500 people were working for us. We left our dining room waiter and stateroom cleaner a little more.
Food was good, (once in a while, great) plentiful, beautifully presented and incredibly varied. I should mention for the record that sometimes (only sometimes) it was difficult to find seating in the buffet area and so it was necessary to share tables. Actually this was interesting, but folks should be prepared.
The overall noise level was high. It could be high in the dining room and buffet. At the pool there was an MC shouting into a mike most of the time. We were ok with the loud noise level and crowdedness because we could retreat to our balcony at the other end of the ship. Without the balcony to retreat to it would have not been such a great trip.
There were no quiet shaded spots at the pool. Indeed, it was difficult to find a spot at all sometimes. But many people were having a wonderful time. If the pool and laying in the sun were more of a priority, I could have gotten there earlier perhaps.
We bought ship's excursions for Ephesus and Olympia because those sites were a distance from the port. We did Istanbul and Dubrovnik and Venice easily ourselves, with help from Rich Steve's Ports of the Mediterranean book. This book was extremely helpful to us. MSC's port stops are not very long and without knowing where to go or what to do one would lose out or have to go with an excursion group. Steve's suggestions and instructions helped us do it ourselves, much better and cheaper than the excursions. The book also made us feel more comfortable with what to expect of ship life.
On our day at sea we took the tour of the ship which I found very interesting. It was fascinating to me to see how a floating hotel of 4500 guests operates. (No engine room or bridge access though.)
Overall, my favorite thing was just traveling by ship and seeing the ports of Venice, Dubrovnik and Istanbul from our balcony as we approached and left.