We are a couple in our early 50's and have been cruising for 20+ years, normally twice per year. I will attempt to summarize the trip, but wish to let all know that some of the comments I have read concerning how others have viewed this cruise defy logic. When you hear people complain about the slightest things on board the ship, you can get an idea of how some of the people still just see things in a different light. I don't mean to say some of the complaints aren't valid, just that some are downright incredible and hard to believe. I am an American, but many times I see that so-called "ugly American" that is suppose to take place let's say in Europe, take place on cruise ships far too often. Anyway, you know who you are and most will understand where I am coming from concerning my introduction.
Embarkation- A breeze, on the ship in less than 10 minutes for a 7pm departure in which we boarded at 2:30.
Cabin: Balcony cabin which is certainly smaller than other ships we have sailed. For those that have trouble getting around, to be polite, I think you would want to upgrade to a superior cabin as they are larger. The balcony size was fine and the bathroom as well. The shower curtain needs weights on the bottom, otherwise basically the normal bathroom for this type ship. Storage space wasn't that great compared to lets say Princess, but OK.
Entertainment: The two main female singers on board(main theater)-one from the UK and the other from Italy are not to be missed. We found the shows really good, but don't expect a comedian as there is an international clientele and you can imagine, not everyone would understand. The show by the pool on the first sea day is very good also.
Casino-nice staff and they actually have a very nice private poker room with 3 tables. The tournaments they ran on sea day had around $1800 pots with a $60 buy-in-no complaints about that payout!
Service and ship: The service was excellent. Most of the servers are from Bali and if you have ever had the opportunity to visit the island(I have), you will know that this is their way as far as friendliness and knowing tourism. I have never been on a large ship with so many service persons and managers visible. At the pool area they were all over the place making sure everything is Ok. The ship is of Italian design, what is more to say other than it is beautiful inside and you will see staff constantly cleaning. Only being a year old, it basically still looks brand new. I feel sorry for those people always shining all the brass.
Food: Here most of the complaints are valid as far as the overall quality of the food, which is very unfortunate, because it sure seems that most are trying to make the cruise a pleasurable experience. For me as far as the breakfast and lunch buffets are concerned, they were very good. I really don't know how much more you could have for breakfast than the ship offered. You do need to remember that the food is different in both the front and rear area of the eating areas. You need to explore both areas. The main letdown being on an Italian ship was that the Italian food was not prepared as it should. I know this well since I have been going to Italy for 2 months each year for the last 15+ years. This was the biggest disappointment, especially after going on the Costa Serena this past summer sailing out of Venice. Now one would hope that the food is different when sailing out of Italy vs. the USA, but I don't know that. The food is OK and the main negative as most I think will report. It certainly isn't bad enough to cause me never to sail on MSC, especially when you consider the fantastic deals they are offering. There was always something to eat and you could always ask for something else, if the particular plate didn't suit you.
Ports: Aruba-great beach-went to Palm Beach, where all the hotels are. You can easily take the bus-seems very safe to the beach for around $3USD RT. Taxi is $12-$15 one way.
Curacao-We went to beach and shopping. For me Aruba was much better.
Panama City and Gatun Locks- took the ships tour and thought it was great.
Cartagena-took private tour with Lee Miles company-not overly impressed. As far as the city, the fort is really the only sight as far as I am concerned. I would never wish to go back.
Cozumel-took a taxi for $15 to Mr. Sanchos, just past Paradise beach. It is a fairly long ride-20 minutes or so and worth the fair as we were docked downtown due to not being able to tender to Playa del Carmen. This beach is just past Paradise beach and has no rocks as does Paradise. This was a good choice for us and they have showers, restaurant, bar etc.
In closing, I would give MSC a chance and go with an open mind and remember, when was the last time you were on a cruise ship that you couldn't complain about something? Overall they are really trying to provide a great experience and I believe that they will really try to improve on some of the food issues. Also to hear those two singers I mentioned earlier are almost "worth the price of the cruise"!