My husband and I (37 and 42 years old, from Norway) had talked about taking a cruise for some time, and when we received a very favorable offer on a 11-nights cruise onboard MSC Fantasia, we decided that this could be a chance to check out this form of vacation. We arrived Genova by train from Milano and booked into Hotel Continental a few minutes' walk from the Principe train station. A very nice hotel, with a view of the harbor. We paid 95 euros for a double room.
We took a taxi to the ship and paid a few euros for a short ride. After reading some (mainly American and British) very unfavorable reviews before departure, we were a bit apprehensive when arriving the terminal. Luckily, the problems facing the maiden voyage passengers had all but disappeared on our trip. Embarkation was easy - no waiting at all at the check-in, and plenty of room to sit in the lounge before going through security and boarding the ship.
The ship is beautiful! It is colorful, elegant, cosy, BIG, and efficient in the layout. The color layout is warm and inviting. Our cabin (standard cabin with balcony, most cabins are like ours) were big, about 20 m2 with a large window facing the balcony with wicker chairs and table. We had a big double bed (my husband is 191 cm tall and felt comfortable) and a nice sofa and a desk - the cabin was bigger than most European hotel rooms. The bathroom was bigger than expected, with lots of storage space. There were shampoo and soap dispensers and thick towels. I was happy to discover thick white bathrobes in the closet. The cabin held warm green colors and we enjoyed every minute of our stay in it.
The service onboard is fantastic. We had a wonderful cabin steward and cleaning lady - always smiling, always ready for questions. The crew in the restaurants and bars were professional, smiling, talkative and personable. We really enjoyed the best of service onboard MSC Fantasia. The only stressed people we encountered were the ladies in the reception desk.
We used the pleasantly fully equipped fitness room every day on our cruise. It was completely new and a joy to use. Very clean and did not smell like our ordinary fitness facilities ;-) The personnel were always courteous, smiling and pleasant to be around. We had a table at sitting no. 2 every evening in the Red Velvet restaurant, with the same personnel every evening. We got to know them quite well and brushed up on our Spanish (some of them were from Honduras). The menu featured the regions of Italy, one new region every evening, and we ate five courses every night. Wonderful food and many new delicacies to encounter. Lunch we usually enjoyed at the buffet on 14th deck, and with a huge range of dishes to choose from we were very always very satisfied. Our cruise had stops in Barcelona, Madeira (Funchal), the Canary islands (two stops), Malaga and Rome. We did not take part in any of the tours organized but went on our own in most ports. We really enjoyed Funchal and Malaga, two wonderful cities! In Malaga, be sure to visit the delicate Picasso museum. We usually walked from the ship to the city, but in Malaga and Barcelona the ship 'parked' so far away that we had to take a taxi, especially since the number of hours on land were limited.
We did not take part in many activities onboard. There was a huge range of activities but we enjoyed ourselves, our cabin, playing cards, reading, exercising and talking. And eating of course. Most morning we had breakfast in bed (no extra charge) and enjoyed life on our balcony, wearing thick white bathrobes and curling our toes from pleasure. We spent one night in the huge theater, when a soprano and a tenor sang opera highlights, and a dance troupe performed. Very good quality entertainment.
Did we have any bad experiences at all? No. But we would like to say that for us, not used to smoking and coming from a country where smoking in public/bars etc is forbidden, the number of smoking areas is too large, even for such a big ship. We are no longer used to smoking indoors and it was surprising to notice the extent of it. We could for instance hardly use the casino since most of the gamblers also were smokers.
Disembarkation was even easier than getting onboard. We placed our luggage outside our cabin the night before arriving in Genova, departed our cabin at 8am the next morning and at 9am we were in a taxi to our hotel in the old town of Genova (Best Western City hotel, very nicely located and only 95 euros). We had a wonderful first cruise and enjoyed it a lot. Next time we will go in spring or fall and get a bit more sun. We also believe that 11 days were a day or two too much and will settle for a shorter cruise next time. But we will think fondly back on our time on MSC Fantasia.