We sailed on the new ship Magnifica for seven nights beginning on March 26, 2010. This was our first cruise and we brought our kids aged 14 and 17 who did indeed sail for free.(there was only a minor service charge for them of about 25 Euro each total, not per day)
After having read so many negative reviews about MSC we were somewhat scared of what to expect, but everything was excellent. I would say the only negative thing we experienced was trying to eat at the buffet which was very crowded, but we simply avoided frustration by either eating at the restaurant (free, not one of the pay extra ones),or by going to the buffet 20-30 minutes before it closed.
The ship is very nice and reminded me of a Las Vegas hotel-lots of mirrors and brass and lounges/bars with bright colours everywhere. There were two pools, but one was quite cool and the other was full of kids most of the time. The hot tubs were also always full of people, but we are not big on hot tubs anyway.
I will stress at this point that the "kids sail free" deal for kids 17 and under is a fantastic deal, but if you don't like kids around then book a different cruise because there will be kids everywhere. I saw the kids play area which looked limited in activities, but my teens enjoyed the teen club a lot and met many other teens from several countries.
The room was much better than expected and the four of us fit snuggly but comfortably in one room. We had a balcony, a king bed(two twins together), a pullout loveseat, and a bunk that pulled down from the wall which my daughter said was very comfortable. The bathroom was fine and had a shower without tub. The towels were huge and thick and replaced with fresh ones whenever we left the room.
Dining- We had a table with just the four of us and our Honduran waiter was very friendly and efficient. There were generally 6 courses with choices for each course. The meals were at a minimum always good and filling, and a couple of them were truly excellent. The swordfish was fantastic.
Avoid the buffet. Although there was lots of variety, it was just too crowded. Just go to the open restaurant for breakfast and lunch. Much nicer.
As far as entertainment goes there were live shows every night that lasted about 45 minutes. They were fine. Kind of like a low end Las Vegas show with dancing, magic, singing. Also several bars had live music. Generally we were too tired from exploring the ports to go to the bars much.
We did three shore excursions with the ship in Bari, Greece and Izmir. They were all quite good, but Ephesus (Izmir) was the best. We explored Istanbul, Dubrovnik, and Venice on our own which were all excellent.
Embarking and disembarking went quite well I'd say for us first timers. We dropped our luggage with the ship early (about 11 am) using a free shuttle from Piazzale Roma, and then we walked around Venice until about 3pm when we returned with the shuttle again and waited about 30 minutes to get on board.
On disembarking day we had a nice breakfast in the restaurant(not buffet)and then we didn't go to our assigned meeting point, which was the crowded theatre, but instead sat in the quiet Sports bar with a nice view of Venice and waited for about an 90 minutes to leave the ship.
In summary, this was a great first time cruise experience with fantastic ports, and the whole family agreed it was our best spring-break vacation ever.